Bob Hunter ‘78 sat at the close of a Sunday night College Activities Board (CAB) meeting in the fall of his sophomore year when members learned that the person usually in charge of the campus Schlag (a long-ago, beer-soaked dance party) would be out of town. The dance – already scheduled for the following Saturday – needed an organizer, someone who could pull it off in just six days.
The team chose Bob.
“I was given the task of putting it all together – which I had never done before. I was petrified,” he said. “The student who usually produced this event was out of town and I had no way of contacting her. I was given little information and just needed to figure it out. I did. And, I loved it. The large all-campus event went off without a hitch.”
That moment helped to define the years that would follow as Hunter — now owner and operator of Hunter Events in San Francisco — developed a now 28-year career in event and meeting planning.
Pulling off the Schlag – as well as other large-scale events such as talent shows and Parents Weekend - is such a solid point in his life that he includes it today on his LinkedIn profile, writing, “My real education came from organizing and producing activities and events in college. I immediately knew event planning was the career for me when I successfully organized a large campus event with less than one week's notice. And: I discovered my life’s work.”
Hunter will be sharing his passion for events by serving as a champion for Carroll’s June PRIDE Month Happy Hour and Virtual Social on June 14. Alumni and friends are invited to come together to celebrate, honor, and show support for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Carroll welcomes all queer and ally voices from the Pioneer community to attend the online celebration. Don’t forget to get your Carroll PRIDE gear!
“I loved — and still do — being around people and events,” Hunter said. “I am a very social being, and loved working with the CAB group and seeing the events and activities come to life. I also really enjoyed the planning process.”
He grew up in Northbrook, Ill., just 20 minutes north of Chicago, and became familiar with Carroll while visiting his older sister – Barbara Hunter '75 - who had enrolled there. He followed in 1973 but wasn’t certain of what he wanted to do academically. So, he enrolled with a self-determined curriculum major, noting, “My studies were all over the map. I did not have a clear direction as to what I wanted to study or learn -- as far as my academics were concerned.”
Hunter came to Carroll already with the depth of creativity developed as a child, but putting that creativity to work clicked as he became more involved in event and meeting planning through CAB. He said he learned that he loved not only organizing events but producing them as well while also creating an experience for people. Being involved in CAB also helped shape his basic fundamentals in understanding event organization, timelines, event execution, event promotion, as well as the joy of producing events on site.
"The more detailed and complex the project was, the more I loved it,” he said. “I’ve made a career literally out of every individual job I’ve ever taken on throughout my career – no matter the size, scale or scope of that job. Customization and detail for each meeting and event is everything.”
Following his graduation from Carroll in 1978, Hunter went to work for the Victoria Station Restaurant chain. Although he had found success and a talent for event planning at Carroll, he did not yet recognize as a young graduate that maybe it was something he could turn into a career. After working as a waiter, bartender, and host, he eventually became the regional event coordinator for the restaurant chain in Chicago.
“This gave me even more experience in event planning and enhanced what I learned about event planning while at Carroll,” he said. “My experience in CAB was a great ‘primer’ and gave me a knowing of what I liked, what I was good at doing and most important, what I love doing. It turns out, CAB was my real education while at Carroll."
After his experience in the restaurant industry, he picked up three years of experience with a public relations firm in Chicago, focusing his work there on promoting the openings of restaurants and hotels. He then moved to San Francisco in 1989 and worked for a short while with his sister, who had also started her own event planning company. He branched out on his own in 1992, when he established Hunter Events. His work has taken him to every major city in the United States as well as internationally to plan corporate conferences in Singapore.
Today he continues to plan, organize, and produce corporate meetings, conferences and corporate events, although that all came to an abrupt halt as the 2020 pandemic stunted the hospitality industry, hotels, and corporations, and, any event planning Hunter would be doing with all of them. In the meantime, he has taken up numerous creative projects, including painting and is developing “The Red Dot Series” that he is considering possibly pitching to a gallery or reproducing as prints.
While painting has kept his creativity flowing, he is eager to get back to his passion for event planning.
His work ranges from searching and securing the venue to organizing all conference logistics. That includes, but is not limited to organizing audio-visual and tech needs, planning food and beverage, creating room design and layout, hiring motivational speakers and talent, and overseeing timelines, budgets, and coordinating vendors involved with a conference or meeting. For special events, such as corporate anniversaries and product launches, added duties involve designing the look and feel of an event while also helping with the creative process of marketing and branding design.
“I come from a family of bankers and lawyers and then there’s me,” he said, with a laugh. “I can visualize things. If I walk into a large, empty room I can say, ‘Ok this is what I see in here’ but then can go back to my desk and work not only on the details design of that room, but also the budgets and timelines, and give the client more information that they need to know in an effort to make them feel as comfortable as humanly possible. I don’t want them to worry about a thing. That's my job.”
He said the importance of having a natural passion, love, and pride for your life’s work results in “a representation of you and becomes your legacy.” Hunter added that all people love and appreciate attending an event or meeting that morph from the usual corporate event into “a colorful and immersive, exciting experience – the way it should be.”
“My works affects people in a positive way,” he said. “That’s what I do, and that’s what I love. It gives me great joy. And, it all started at Carroll College while on the Dance and Activities Board of CAB. Had it not been for Carroll, I would not have been introduced to what I’ve been doing the last 28 years. For that, I am very grateful and very thankful.”