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Donor Stories

Sarah HuntThere is a saying that when one door closes, another opens. For Sarratt Society member Sarah Hunt, BS’67, the door to Peabody never closed after she graduated. In fact, that door remained open—and welcoming—over the years providing many opportunities and possibilities in her career.

Hunt’s father and brother attended Vanderbilt as well as her younger sister. So Vanderbilt was a natural fit for her to explore her interests in education. As a result of an early interaction, she narrowed her focus to special education. “My freshman roommate had a brother with a disability. This was the first time I knew someone with special needs. As I began pursuing my studies, I realized that many of these children weren’t being served,” recalled Hunt.

Hunt’s time at Vanderbilt opened her eyes in many ways. A collegial relationship with fellow education students at nearby Fisk University included joint projects and weekend study retreats. “The experience broadened my horizons. This invaluable lesson helped build a strong understanding of diversity among us,” she said. “I am encouraged with Vanderbilt’s continued focus on diversity today.”

After graduating, Hunt lived in Shelbyville, Tennessee and taught special education in the public school system.  As part of this practical experience, she saw firsthand where the deficits in the education system were, specifically with early intervention. Hunt, with “incredible community support,” began the Child Development Center (now known as the Community Development Center) in 1972. Initially, the CDC served children 18 months to 4 years. Over time, the focus shifted from birth to age 2 and eventually expanded to include various adult services as well.

For the next 30 years, she served as agency director. Officially retired, she currently serves on the foundation board and governing board of the CDC. Hunt is actively involved in supporting the CDC in its current implementation of an autism program.

From the very beginning of her tenure at the CDC, Hunt maintained close ties to faculty and resources at Peabody. “Peabody was my right hand. The support services so critical to our success were at Peabody—speech therapy for our students at the Bill Wilkerson Center, guidance from faculty on how to form a professional provider organization, special workshops, opportunities to observe in the classroom, and ongoing training for our staff. The door at Peabody wasn’t just open, it was revolving,” shared Hunt.

With a desire to provide graduate students financial support in the future, Hunt has named Vanderbilt as a beneficiary of a portion of her retirement plan. “As I considered establishing a long-term resource for future teachers at Peabody, I wanted my gift to be used for practical purposes: training teachers who work with children with autism. This is a growing need and Peabody has been instrumental in writing grants and providing pediatricians with the resources to help them diagnose autism earlier.”

For Hunt, the door to Peabody—and Vanderbilt—is still wide open and welcoming. Having relocated to Nashville, she often attends lectures, faculty and staff recognition events, and even graduation. Hunt is also an advocate for the Next Steps program at Vanderbilt and the continued work of the Kennedy Center. “Peabody provided me with the tools for success which enabled me to help others. For that I am grateful.”

If you want to join Sarah Hunt in giving a planned gift to Vanderbilt, please contact us today.