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Former Governor Jim Hunt and his wife, Carolyn, received the 2015 Jay Robinson Education Leadership Award from the Public School Forum last Monday for his work to improve North Carolina education. 

The annual award was presented at the Raleigh Marriott Center where almost 500 people – including educators and lawmakers – honored the former governor. 

“We have great schools, but we also have schools that need great help,” Hunt said after receiving the award, according to the Public School Forum’s Friday Report.

Hunt was the longest-serving governor in state history, serving four terms from 1977–1985 and 1993–2001.

Former Governor Jim Hunt (Photo Credit/Public School Forum)
Former Governor Jim Hunt (Photo Credit/Public School Forum)

According to The Hunt Institute, Hunt focused on early childhood education during his reign, and launched programs such as Smart Start, an early education program that other states have used as a model. 

He also emphasized teacher pay and school quality, while Carolyn worked as a teacher and served on the Wilson County School Board, the Friday Report stated.

“Jim was the original education governor, a title to which many aspired but none ever earned the way he did, and many of us who came later tried very hard to learn from and emulate Jim’s example,” said former Indiana Governor and current President of Purdue University Mitch Daniels, according to the Public School Forum’s Friday Report. “None of us ever equaled it, but we were all stretched and improved by the attempt to do so.”

Even former President Bill Clinton got in on the praise, according to the Friday Report, saying in a video tribute “Jim and Carolyn have been leaders in public education for as long as I’ve known them, and that’s a long time – soon to be 40 years. When I was first elected governor of Arkansas, Jim was already a champion for North Carolina’s children who understood the vital connection between a good education and a strong economy.” 

Keith Poston, president and executive director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, said Hunt was an example for all North Carolinians interested in improving education.

“Governor Hunt inspired and challenged every one of us in attendance to do more, to work together for our state, for our schools and for our children,” he said. 

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.