Alma Hunt: Committed to WMU’s People and Purpose

Alma Hunt portrait

In 1948, WMU was in a season of transition. Coming off the heels of the Great Depression and World War II, WMU was miraculously unscathed—but it was exhausted. When the beloved Kathleen Mallory decided to retired as executive director, the search for a new leader began. Cora McWilliams, the chair of the search committee, knew exactly where to look. She made her way to Liberty, Missouri, to speak with an exceptional woman on staff at William Jewell College. That woman was Alma Hunt.

Born October 5, 1909, Alma was a fashionable, intelligent young woman from Virginia. She was involved in the local church from her childhood, participating in the Sunbeams and Girls’ Auxiliary programs at First Baptist Church in Roanoke. There she was baptized as a believer in Christ at the age of 10. Her participation in these activities early on fostered her lifelong passion for missions.

 

Zeal for Missions

As an adult, Alma became a teacher, earning a master’s degree and 2 honorary doctorates from Jewell and the University of Richmond. In 1944, she began her work as the dean of women at Jewell. In addition to working at Jewell, she was a speaker for many WMU conferences. Alma’s involvement with national WMU started in 1931, when she attended a national Baptist conference in North Carolina. This conference was a significant event in her personal faith journey and refueled her zeal for missions work. This conference was also influential in her professional journey, as it brought her name to the attention of WMU leadership. WMU asked her to speak on numerous occasions, paving the way for the day she would be called to lead the organization.

Alma worked at Jewell until that day in 1948 when Cora arrived at the college and asked her to accept a nomination for the executive director position. Alma was hesitant to accept the nomination; she did not want to leave her job at Jewell and felt that she was not qualified for such a significant role. However, after many days in prayer, Alma decided to pursue the opportunity, confident that God would supply all she needed to do the job well.

 

Too Young to Lead?

On May 18, 1948, Alma was officially elected to the role of WMU executive director. Because she was young, many of the older WMU members were not sure she was up for the task. But age does not determine wisdom, and the Lord had bestowed much upon this young leader. She began her years of leadership by making a commitment to never deviate from WMU’s “people or purpose,” reassuring everyone, young and old, that she was committed to protecting the treasured mission. She made faithfulness to WMU’s purpose the heartbeat behind everything she did. Through all her years of leadership, Alma stayed true to her word and never deviated from WMU’s original mission. While she ushered in many modern methods, the core purpose of the work never changed; because of this commitment, she earned the trust of many.

Alma led WMU into a time of massive expansion. Under her leadership, WMU’s membership grew to more than 1.5 million women. She oversaw the transition to a new headquarters building in Birmingham, implemented the Christmas in August program, and cultivated major structural growth throughout the organization. Additionally, she worked hard to build a thriving relationship between the Foreign Mission Board (now the International Mission Board) and WMU. While there had been tension between the 2 in the past, Alma determined to move forward in partnership. Her influence on the FMB was profound, and the 2 organizations walked together into a season of incredible growth. During her time of leadership, Alma was able to visit 87 countries, pouring into the lives of thousands of women. Through her efforts, she ushered WMU into a season of development and modernization, resulting in the organization we know today .

After retiring from WMU in 1974, Alma served as a foreign missions consultant for the FMB, working in 45 countries to develop leadership in women. After retiring from the FMB, she continued ministry in her local church, speaking about missions, advocating for women in ministry, and serving in many other areas. In January 2008, Alma was officially ordained to ministry, something her church desired to do for her as a tribute to her many decades of ministry. While Alma did not marry or have children of her own, she had a nephew and niece she dearly loved. She enjoyed spending time with them and her many great-nieces and great-nephews. She passed away at the age of 98 in June 2008.

 

Use Your Gifts to Glorify Christ

Alma lived an amazing life and set an incredible example of leadership and ministry. She was never focused on building her own name. She was quick to listen and slow to become angry and approached difficult decisions and issues with thoughtfulness and care. She sought to use her specific gifts and skills to glorify Christ and did not waste her time trying to be someone she was not. She dedicated every part of herself to the Lord, and He used her to bring about magnificent advances for the kingdom. Let us seek to follow her example and use our gifts and skills to honor the Lord and advance His kingdom.


Interested in learning more about Alma and other WMU leaders? Check out We’ve a Story to Tell: 125 Years of WMU.


Selah Ulmer is a recent seminary graduate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


Sources:

Rosalie Hall Hunt, We’ve a Story to Tell: 125 Years of WMU. (Woman’s Missionary Union, SBC: Birmingham, 2013).

Noel Forlini and Julie Walters, “Alma Hunt, longtime WMU leader, dies.” (Baptist Press, June 2008).


 

Age Level: 
Leadership: 
Back to Top