Joan Sherar Hunt, PhD, DSc (hon.) died peacefully in her home in Kansas City on April 20, 2019 at the age of 84. The daughter of Marion and Retus Sherar (Paola, KS) is survived by her son Thomas R. Hunt, III, MD, DSc (Houston, TX), her four grandchildren (and daughter-in-law Teri), her brother James Sherar (Asheville, NC), as well as many close friends throughout the world. Her life was one characterized by spectacular accomplishments, ranging from achievements that markedly advanced biomedical science to those that fostered gender equality at a time when little focus was placed on that subject.
After raising her son, she returned to school, earning her terminal degree from the University of Kansas at age 49. With that, she was off, eventually to become one of the world's foremost reproductive immunology scientists, making discoveries that not only advanced understanding of the immunological aspects of human reproduction but also gave rise to important clinical applications in medicine. Until her retirement in 2011, her groundbreaking work was continually funded by the National Institutes of Health. In all, her external grant funding totaled well over $61 million. She authored over 158 original scientific articles and 34 book chapters, edited 5 books, and delivered countless scientific presentations to include 203 invited research presentations across the globe. At the close of her career, Joan Hunt ranked in the top 1% of all cited authors. She served on the editorial boards of 10 scientific journals and was the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Reproductive Immunology.
Her awards and accolades are simply too numerous to recount. She was honored to serve as Visiting Scholar at St. John's College (University of Cambridge, UK) throughout 1999. Importantly, her successes were recognized by the University of Kansas through appointment as University Distinguished Professor in 2000 as well as induction into the University of Kansas Women's Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2001, after serving as a member, then the first woman chairperson, of Human Embryology and Development-1 Student Section for the National Institutes of Health, and as a member of the National Center for Research Resources Advisory Council, she received the National Institutes of Health prestigious Distinguished National Service Award. The University of Guelph, Canada awarded her Doctor of Science honoris causa in 2003.
Though her personal successes were numerous, her early life experiences ignited a deep passion for teaching, mentoring, and helping launch and foster the careers of talented trainees and colleagues, especially women scientists. Through her administrative positions as Senior Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, Vice Chancellor for Research and President of the Kansas University Medical Center's Research Institute, and Vice Chancellor for Biomedical Research Infrastructure, as well as the initiator and guiding force in the Kansas Institutional Network for Biomedical Research Excellence (linking 10 Kansas campuses), evidence of her focus on mentorship is abundant. Similarly, such emphasis can be seen outside the university, as a president and leader within multiple professional societies, and within the local community. Her unwavering support of underrepresented groups, especially women, led to her induction into the University of Kansas' Emily Taylor Center for Women & Gender Equity in 2007 and the Betty M. Drees Distinguished Alumnae Award by the University of Kansas Society for Women in Medicine and Science in 2016.
Joan Hunt's impact on science and medicine was profound, and she will be sorely missed by many around the world. But undoubtedly, the greatest and most intense loss will be felt by those who loved her dearly; her many past and present friends; her family; and, especially her son, whom she raised in her image.
Those who wish may donate in Joan's name to KU Endowment.