“On February 16, Sharon Hunt transitioned to her eternal rest after a brave battle with cancer. This remarkable lady touched the lives of countless friends, family, and colleagues on her journey and occupies a special place in the hearts of each,” wrote Dr. Jim Vaden, professor of orthodontics at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center.

Dr. Vaden’s comments about Ms. Hunt, who retired in 2014 as executive director of the Southern Association of Orthodontists, have been echoed by countless AAO members. A long-time association manager, she had served as executive director of the SAO since 1996. After retiring, Ms. Hunt worked part-time for the SAO and the Southwestern Association of Orthodontists until she became ill.

“Sharon touched the lives of 20 years of SAO leaders and more recently, leaders of the SWSO,” said Dr. Gary Inman, AAO president-elect. “She guided each of us individually according to our talents. It is an understatement to say that each of us respected Sharon as the SAO ED. We loved her for her support and guidance. I still miss the long walks that she and I took together when we traveled to component meetings, becoming friends for life. Sharon was special and will be greatly missed.

“In 1996, I had just been elected as SAO secretary treasurer,” Dr. Inman continued. “After Sharon came on board, it was obvious that we had hired a visionary. She immediately realized that our SAO excess reserves needed attention. She led us through the formation of the Investment Committee and developed an RFP for an investment firm. As a result of her management, the SAO is on solid financial ground to this day. She also restructured the Board meetings to be much more strategic and less operational and ran meetings with much greater efficiency.”

Building a Generation of Leaders

Dr. Inman also credits Ms. Hunt’s accomplishment in developing the SAO Leadership Program, which started in 2006-07.

“It was Sharon’s vision to encourage and identify future leaders,” he says. “The success of that program has led other constituent organizations as well as the AAO to adopt similar programs for leaders.”

“I was blessed to be in the first SAO Leadership Program class,” says AAO House of Delegates Speaker Dr. Jeff Rickabaugh. “Many members of that first class quickly became directors, delegates and component officers.  Under Sharon’s mentorship, I became the AAO House Speaker. I told her on the phone the day before she passed away that she was the major reason I was in the position. I owe her so much.”

“As Drs. Inman and Rickabaugh have acknowledged, Sharon was a remarkable visionary!” says Dr. Richard Williams, AAO trustee representing the SAO. “I was and have continued to be amazed at how she could assess the current situation with an eye for where we needed to be and plan action to get us there, even when we as leadership may not have seen the path. There was always purpose in every action she helped us take. I reflect on her passion for developing young leaders and admire the programs she helped institute that are ongoing, paying tremendous dividends for our association at multiple levels.

“Sharon’s investment in each of us was more than building a leader,” Dr. Williams continues. “She influenced my ability and desire to give to my fellow man as opportunity afforded. She will be truly missed; however, the legacy she leaves outlives her and will do so for many years to come.”

Ms. Hunt’s daughter, Heather Hunt, is the current executive director of the SAO. Notes to the family may be mailed to 375 Highland Avenue NE, House 208, Atlanta, GA 30312.

On Saturday, April 27 at 11:00 a.m. a memorial service and lunch will take place at the Embry Hills United Methodist Church. Memorial contributions may be made to Embry Hills United Methodist Church, 3304 Henderson Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30341 (embryhillsumc.org/give) or to the Georgia Society of Association Executives Foundation (sae.org/donate).