Politically Active


Listening to Doran Hunter talk about bringing his experiences in the Army Reserves, as an executive with the Veteran’s Administration, as a legislative consultant and in training sessions with four-star generals to the classroom as a political science professor—and the charge he’s gotten from doing that since arriving at Minnesota State Mankato in 1969—it becomes clear that the worst idea he’s ever encountered could well be retirement.

Hunter left Minnesota State Mankato in 2007, at the age of 69, to take a job working with an international think tank called the Caux Round Table. The organization brings together great minds in science, business, religion, academia and government and seeks a convergence of these fields to foster “change for the better in humanity’s ability to raise living standards, provide for social justice and realize the fullness of individual human dignity in all our days.”

It’s quite the “goody two shoes” group, Hunter jokes, but he has been actively presenting and writing for it. “It’s one of these organizations that tries to bring peace, security and prosperity to the world,” he says.

Few who know Hunter would be surprised at his involvement with such a group. It’s quite similar to what Hunter has been doing for the past three decades—chasing down ideas and bringing them back home.

Joe Kunkel, a political science professor at Minnesota State Mankato, calls his long-time colleague a top-quality professor who was able to help many students go on to careers in law and public service. Kunkel says Hunter was intellectually restless—“always reading and learning.” He was the type, Kunkel explains, who could seamlessly combine the lofty ideals of political science with the real world.

“The students who took his classes had a memorable intellectual experience,” Kunkel says. “He would bring to life the great issues in western political philosophy, applying ancient ideas to contemporary concerns. He was equally at home at the edge of Plato’s cave or the recesses of the government bureaucracy.”

When Hunter arrived in Mankato in 1969, he joined a political science department that had been formed just four years earlier. He recalls being impressed by the hiring done by Winston Benson, the department’s first chair.

“The faculty all had Ph.Ds from major universities,” Hunter says. “The thing I liked about the department, and the University generally, is they were really committed to community service and student development. In other words, they cared. A lot of the other universities I looked at, they were all research universities; they didn’t give a rip about service to students. I wanted to be a teacher and a researcher.”

He considers the protests and student activism that occurred during his early years at Minnesota State Mankato as the most unique time to be teaching. “For about five or six years we had maximum student activism, which made life really interesting for a political science professor,” he says. Although future activism on campus never matched those times, Hunter nonetheless found the classroom an exhilarating place to work.

Part of the exhilaration was integrating what he learned at various government jobs into his work at Minnesota State Mankato. Using four leaves of absence, he served as a public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, an executive director for a Veteran’s Administration program, a government affairs trainer who worked with staff from agencies such as the CIA and EPA on how Capitol Hill operates, and a researcher on a legislative commission seeking to streamline the criminal justice system in Minnesota.

From each leave came a new, energized return to the classroom.

“What I did was bring back all that information and all those resources to my classes,” Hunter says.

Hunter still teaches a class or two each semester, each one informed by what could be called “the Doran Hunter formula” that’s served the department and students so well for so long.

“When I teach public administration today,” he says, “about a third is academic and the rest of it’s from experience.”