Howard Hunt, '87
in August 2007
For Howard Hunt, Multi-tasking is an Art Form
Some people say they "wear a lot of hats" when describing their professional or social lives. Howard Hunt is a walking haberdashery. Howard graduated from Carolina in 1987 with a B.A. in Art Studio (Humanities and Social Sciences), and wears the titles of an award-winning artist, photographer, a licensed realtor, contractor, rugby coach, entrepreneur, and most recently, a father.
Born in Atlanta, Howard moved to Potomac, MD, when he was 13. He came to USC after transferring from Montgomery Junior College in Maryland where he played football and was an all-conference offensive lineman.
"I didn't get offered a scholarship to any 'major' schools, and I turned down some offers from other smaller schools," Howard recalls. "I ended up at USC because three guys I played football and rugby with in high school decided to come here and played rugby. I came down to visit them, loved it and stuck around."
An active athlete since his youth, Howard was not ready to hang up his cleats once he arrived on campus.
"After a while, the guys talked me into walking-on the football team during coach Joe Morrison’s first year," Howard says. "I made it through the two-a-day practices, and the hard part was over. Then I quit three days before the season opener. My only regret was not sticking around a few more days and running out for at least one '2001' experience. I quit playing football because my rugby friends came back in town for school and started playing. I found myself missing the fun of that game."
USC is still a big part of Howard's life, in and outside of athletics, and now he enjoys passing along those experiences with his two year old son, Cole.
"The most fun thing I do is being a daddy," Howard says. "When my son first started walking, I took him on a father/son trip to Williams-Brice Stadium. We ran 'plays' into the end zone. I made some crowd cheering sound effects, and he was so into it. It was really great."
Howard continued to support USC and the rugby club after hanging up his cleats and donning a whistle. He coached the rugby team for three years beginning in 1990 before stepping down and then being asked to re-build the club and coach again for another three-year stint beginning in 1999. He also helped start the Carolina Olde Boys, an alumni club for USC rugby players, which focuses on reunions, networking and funding for the club.
"My best memories come from my rugby days in school here, so working with the Carolina Olde Boys has been very rewarding," Howard says. "After one of our C.O.B. reunion dinners I asked a group of my former players if they ever thought they'd be hugging me to say good bye after all the running I made them do on the practice field. We're celebrating the 40th anniversary of the club the first weekend in November, so it will be great to bring back players from all eras to see campus and trade stories."
Passion for Art Carries over into Career
Howard studied many art forms at USC, but photography and painting have always kept his interest. After college, Howard's attention was taken away from traditional art and focused on the creative challenges of business. Initially he designed and sold pools for the largest pool builder in the southeast in Charlotte and Hilton Head Island. He also designed his own line of greeting cards that sold nationwide and in Japan. Howard returned to Columbia 1986 and in 1989 started his own local shipping company, The Private P.O. A contractor and now a realtor, Howard has bought, remodeled and sold many houses in the Columbia area which can be seen as an extension of his artistic background.
"I can walk into a house and see it 'finished', then go and draw the new floor plan," Howard says. "Like a canvas, the house might change in places from the original idea. It's great to see the finished product and for people to walk in and see it for the first time since I started on the house. You don't get to see that process when you are doing a painting on a canvas. This is why I like to buy a house and renovate it myself. I want to be able to change the house as I best see fit, using my artistic license."
Howard's passion for art and expression remained, and he was inspired to cultivate his skills through travel experiences locally and abroad.
"I was an art major at USC, but went into the business side of making money when I got out of college," Howard says. "Travel kicked it all back up for me about seven years ago with taking a lot of photos on trips. I enjoy both photography and painting. I'm better known for my photography and have won some awards, but people are beginning to see me as a more serious painter now."
Most recently, Howard won Best in Show for the photography division in the 2006 national juror art show held by the Hilton Head Island Art League. He also took second place at the 2006 South Carolina State Fair in the photography division. Some of his work can be found places such as the Columbia Convention Center
"My paintings are selling more now, and I'm getting some nice feedback on them," Howard says. "It's fun to watch people that meet me for the first time in conjunction with my art. They see a big jock-looking guy, and they ask 'You did this?' I take that as a compliment."
In addition to recognition in local and nationally recognized juror art shows, some of his work has been added into private and public collections in Virginia, Florida, and Texas.
Giving Gamecocks a Chance
Long before online networking became popular, Howard was a big proponent of helping fellow Gamecocks find work. Whether it was labor work for some of his re-modeling projects or an office job at his formerly-owned Private P.O., Howard was always willing to offer his current and former players a chance to work and find their way.
"I wish I had a nickel for every Carolina student or graduate who worked for me," Howard says. “I hired anywhere from 1 or 2 to 10 at a time. It's been going on for a while now. A lot of them really needed the work while in school or just coming out of school, and I needed their help, so it's really worked well. I can think of so many funny stories now about some of those guys which I didn't think were so funny at the time."
Perhaps serving as a coach and mentor to college age kids prepared him for the challenges of fatherhood.
"Being a father allows me to act like a kid without being made fun of," Howard says. "A child is a little 'you' looking for guidance, fun, learning experiences, boundaries and treats. It's easier than coaching a rugby team!"
Bringing Back the Arts!
With deep roots in Carolina and the local community, Howard recently co-founded The Artists Round Table; an informal grassroots resource organizations for all artists in Richland and Lexington Counties. The organization's goal is to provide leadership, funding and business expertise to artists and to connect them with arts organizations and businesses.
"The Artists Round Table came into being because I was tired of hearing artists say they could not make a living in Columbia selling their work, then selling in other cities and hearing local art lovers say they bought those pieces of art in those cities," Howard says. "Columbia has internationally recognized and award-winning artists in museums all around the world. We needed to educate the public about the talent of our local artists and teach the local artists how to be more business-like to make a better living here in Columbia."
Citing the attractiveness of a low cost of living in Columbia as an incentive for business recruiting, he stresses the importance of having a striving art community.
"Our group is helping the city offer art shows, plays, concerts, and the theater like you would find in Charleston or New York," Howard says. "The non-profit arts and culture alone are a multi-million dollar industry in greater Columbia. This is big business that is worth a look at the corporate level and for art collectors. A well-rounded city must be able to offer more than a great job to get the best employees and their families to move here."
Howard takes a lot of pride in his work and being a part of Carolina and the community. Some of his best Carolina memories are of his rugby days and never losing to arch-rival Clemson during his playing days. Having spent a lot of his collegiate career knocking down opponents on the rugby pitch, he has also successfully tackled a wide range of career interests while staying close to Carolina.