The Hunter Institute

group of students and faculty involved in the hunter institute


Willard Hunter founderRemembering Willard “Wil” Hunter
August 21, 1941 - September 18, 2016

Wil and his wife Judy founded The Hunter Institute for Early Childhood Learning which is based at Florida Gulf Coast University. The mission of the Hunter Institute is to positively affect the growth and development of young children by providing quality education and professional development for their teachers and childcare givers. The Hunter Institute engages Florida Gulf Coast University College of Education students in high quality experiences and research regarding best practices in the field of early childhood education. The Hunter Institute also serves as a resource to the community, to parents, teachers and care givers as well, concerning the growth development and education of young children.

If you would like to make a memorial gift in honor of Wil Hunter to support the Hunter Institute, it can be mailed to:

The Hunter Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Boulevard South
Fort Meyers, FL 33965

You may also use the link below to make a gift online.

Make your memorial gift NOW >>

Helpful tip to complete donation form: In "Specify Other" field - enter Hunter Institute. In "Type" field select Memorial. Add Willard Hunter in name fields


History of the Institue

The Hunters

Willard and Judy Hunter of Bonita Springs, longtime benefactors of The College at Brockport, funded the institute’s creation through a charitable remainder trust and a charitable gift annuity and will continue to support its mission at FGCU.

 “We purposely funded this institute with a CRT and a CGA so we can be involved in its growth while guaranteeing its long-term future and success,” said Wil Hunter. He is the retired president and CEO of Optem, a Rochester-based custom optical instrument design and manufacturing company he co-founded in 1984 following a 19-year career with Bausch and Lomb Inc. He was a member of The Brockport Foundation Board for 17 years, serving as its chairman from 2001 to 2003.

Judy Hunter, a pre-school teacher for 20 years until her retirement in 1999, knows firsthand the issues that educators face and the value of engaging children in learning early in life.

“We hope the work of the institute will result in a better understanding of how young children learn and how to help them in the classroom,” she said. “Pre-school education is critically important to a child’s future. If we can teach young children to be comfortable in the classroom, they will gain significant self-esteem and will be able to accomplish virtually any goal they set for themselves academically, physically and socially.”


Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

In January 2015, the Hunter Institute became partners with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and the Barbara Bush Foundation in regard to implementing the next Barbara Bush Family Literacy program.  Dr. Jackie Greene of FGCU's Lucas Center and the College of Education generously offered the Parent and Child Time (PACT) curriculum she wrote to be used for this program.  Under the direction of Dr. Tunde Szecsi and Dr. Debra Giambo, both of the College of Edcuation as well, COE students also wrote additional "PACT" activities to accompany this curriculum. COE students were invited to serve as assistants during the implementation of the program and received service-learning hours for doing so.

This was the first time FGCU College of Education professors and students were involved in writing and implementing curriculum for a Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy program.  The Hunter Institute was proud to serve as a partner and sponsor in this very unique and rewarding experience! Contact the Director of the Hunter Institute for additional partnership opportunities.