In Memoriam: G. David Huntoon '65

Dave Huntoon, at a recent Rose Institute dinner event Dave Huntoon, at a recent Rose Institute dinner event

Attempting to “appear intelligent” in front of his new boss, Gavin Landgraf ’14 decided to strike up a conversation with him about state and local government–– specifically, about the Brown-Whitman gubernatorial election. His new boss chuckled, told him it wasn’t business hours, and instead asked Landgraf if he had watched the latest USC football game.

The “boss” was G. David Huntoon ’65, who died a week ago last Monday, July 7, after a long battle with melanoma. Among those who knew him, Huntoon was a gentleman who wore his stripes for the College proudly, knew “just about everyone in local government,” and readily invested in the knowledge, growth, and success of the many students who worked with, and around him, at the Rose Institute of State and Local Government, where he served as a Fellow since 1998.

His many projects included supervising the Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey–– a gathering of data about fees, taxes, costs, and incentives that influence the cost of doing business in major California communities, which quickly became a valued resource for business owners and real estate developers. Outside of the College, he was an invaluable contact for the Institute in the business, government, and tribal communities in the Los Angeles and Inland Empire areas.

Upon news of his death, a post on the Rose’s Facebook page last week considered the lasting impact:

David dedicated his life to serving CMC, and acted as boss, mentor, and friend to CMC students (and to our Rose students, in particular) for many years. Our deepest sympathies to his family. Dave will be missed, and the Institute will never be the same.

“Dave Huntoon was a fine man, a true gentleman, a great friend of the Rose Institute and Claremont McKenna, and an honor and pleasure to work with,” said Rose Institute Director Andrew Busch, Crown Professor of Government and George R. Roberts Fellow. “He always represented CMC in the very best way, and conveyed a wealth of knowledge and experience to our students.”

Numerous remembrances from other colleagues and students further illustrate Busch’s description of the CMC grad, who majored in economics and accounting during the ’60s, when the student body at Claremont McKenna was still all male. By the time Huntoon graduated in 1965, a plan to expand student enrollment by 200 students had been green-lighted, and the College was in the middle of a fund-raising and development growth spurt.

Huntoon returned to his alma mater in a leadership role during those growth years, and beyond. He joined the CMC Alumni Association Board of Directors in 1966 and served as president 1973 to 1974. He served as a CMC trustee in 1973-74, and again in 1981-84. He also served on multiple committees and task forces, including chairing the Past President’s Council. The last position he held was as the Rose Institute’s marketing and outreach coordinator. He also directed the development, marketing, and execution of the Rose Academy for Civic Engagement, an extensive public policy educational program for government officials.

He is the same person who established both the Glenn R. and G. David Huntoon teaching awards, synonymous with exceptional scholarship. The Glenn R. Huntoon Teaching Award was named for Huntoon’s father in 1974, and is given annually to an outstanding teacher by a secret vote of the student body. The G. David Huntoon Senior Teaching Award followed in 1984, and is given to full professors, as nominated by juniors and seniors. Some of the earliest recipients are familiar names: Harold Rood, Ricardo Quinones, Nick Warner, and Marc Massoud.

Huntoon’s daughter Emily has thanked the CMC community for being her father’s “family outside of home.” Longtime colleague and Rose Fellow Douglas Johnson said Huntoon “was always there for CMC and the Institute.” He said Huntoon practiced founding director Alan Heslop’s goal of making the students the heart of the Institute’s work. “And the students respected and appreciated him for that,” Johnson said.

“He was certainly a surrogate dad to many of us on campus,” Christiana Dominguez ’01 wrote online. “His wry sense of humor, interest in our lives and education, and dedication to keeping us doing meaningful work made him an essential part of most of our Rose and CMC experience.”

Huntoon earned his M.B.A. from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. He was a certified public accountant by profession, and in 1989, co-founded and directed a marketing research firm in China, which catered to the needs of U.S. corporations. He also engaged in international business development activities, primarily in Mexico, Turkey, and China, while representing China Venturetech Investment Corp. Tech Group, Ltd., in the West.

His resume is broad with many professional successes and affiliations, including his continued presidency (since 1996) of Constituent Strategies, Inc., for which he developed “The Future of the Coachella Valley Conference” series and the Coachella Valley Report. He also developed the “Towns and Tribes” conference series, working with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, and bringing together the tribal, city, and county governments in the Coachella Valley. Another noted achievement was raising awareness of the economic-opportunity potential of a cleaned up Salton Sea, which then resulted in modification of public policy direction.

Huntoon lived and worked his entire life in the San Gabriel Valley. He served as a director for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, and was the immediate past chairman of the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership. His interests outside the College not surprisingly included going to USC football and basketball games ("We've had tickets ever since he was a grad student there," son Glenn said), and in more recent years, traveling with partner Sharon Jackson. When his children were young, the family would vacation at their home in Lake Arrowhead, and Huntoon–– says son Glenn–– was passionate about raising his children, and always made time to coach their sports teams and attend their activities.

In the last years of his life, friend and Rose Institute director Andrew Busch says Huntoon “faced life with a combination of strength and good humor, and never lost that demeanor through his long battle with cancer.”

He is survived by sons Glenn and Greg Huntoon, and Schon Garrison, and daughter Emily Huntoon.

A memorial service is planned on campus on Monday, Aug. 4 at 3 p.m., in the Founders Room, Bauer Center. Notes to the family may be sent in care of the Rose Institute, 888 Columbia Ave., Claremont, CA 91711.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Huntoon Senior Teaching Award Endowment Fund at Claremont McKenna College, 400 North Claremont Blvd., Claremont, CA 91711.

Due to numerous responses, the following remembrances from some who knew David Huntoon are shared below:

I first knew Dave Huntoon when we were both CMC students (a few years ago) and in the Young Republicans together. A number of years later, when I joined the Board of Governors of the Rose Institute, it was a pleasure to learn that Dave was a “Rose Fellow” and an important part of the Rose management, and then to work more closely with him for several years as I served as chairman of the Board.  Dave was an inveterate networker and rainmaker for the Rose; an engaged supervisor for projects that our student research assistants worked on; and a steady and wise advisor to the Board.  Through his work, he leaves a legacy of invaluable contributions to the Rose and to the education of CMC students over many years.

––Darryl R. Wold '63, Chairman, Rose Institute

Mr. Huntoon was a highly respected presence at the Rose, both for his seemingly endless connections in local government and for the example he set as an alumnus for young CMC students. I was able to work with him on a number of projects at the Rose, including the Coachella Valley Economic Forecast Conference.

­­––Katya Abazajian ’14

Dave was a real CMC anchor for me: a student, alumni president, and Rose staffer. He always provided great perspective, sound advice, and most appreciated: a valued, long-term friendship.

––Trustee Ray Remy ’59

Mr. Huntoon taught me about the value of listening to others and his trust in me to take the lead on projects was formative in building my confidence as a student leader. I always enjoyed working with him because he was very available for advice, and a staunch advocate for students. He was also knowledgeable in pretty much everything, from his institutional experience with years of Rose projects, to Inland Empire topography, to how to write a thesis in three weeks. Once, he told me that I "ran a tight ship" with my leadership on a Rose project, and that bit of praise remains one of the highest compliments I have ever received! 

––Marina Giloi ’14

Dave knew, and had the deep respect of, essentially everyone on campus and in the entire L.A. region. He was always meeting with the Los Angeles Economic Development Council, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, the Tribal Association of Sovereign Indian Nations, or one of the many other governmental agencies he served on, yet he always had time for the students. Whether they needed advice on finding information, guidance on what to do with their lives, or if they needed a place to stay for a couple of weeks, Dave was always there for them.

And Dave stayed in touch. He remained close friends with his CMC college roommate Robert Day (yes, THAT Robert Day!). And I suspect the number of alumni who talked or traded e-mails with Dave at least every couple of months numbers in the hundreds.

––Douglas Johnson ’92, Fellow, Rose Institute

From among my co-workers at the Rose Institute, Dave and I worked the longest period–– since 1996. He has always been a very reserved man–– private, yet truly aware of what is going on around him, on a professional and personal level. He was caring, gentle, and thoughtful, and would not bother others with his personal crisis. He did not allow people’s sympathies for him  to get in the way of professionalism. I will miss his presence at the Rose, as I know my other colleagues will.

––Marionette S. Moore, administrative assistant, Rose Institute

When I first met Dave it was in the context of promoting the San Gabriel Valley as a region that is both intellectual and business friendly. I learned that he lived in Claremont, so we connected. I later learned he represented the Rose Institute, and everything CMC. I am fortunate to have worked closely with him on our mutual endeavors. He was a tremendous resource that brought so much credibility to the SGV, Claremont, and CMC. He will be sorely missed, but his work and influence will not be forgotten because, like the man himself, his mark is not in his name splashed all over his work. Instead, it in his memorable and subtle contributions that remind us, daily, why places such as the SGV, Claremont, and CMC are the places they are today.

––Sam Pedroza, Councilmember, city of Claremont

It was an honor and privilege to work with Dave Huntoon on a daily basis during the decade I directed the Rose Institute. By virtue of his tireless efforts, winning personality, and extensive knowledge of the politics and political leadership of the Inland Empire, Dave established enduring contacts with governmental, tribal, and business associations. In turn, those connections allowed the Rose Institute to host conferences and undertake extensive research projects that burnished CMC's public policy credentials, and affordedthe Rose Institute's student research assistants–– working under his expert guidance–– the rare opportunity to engage in actionable, real-world research, producing tangible results. All who knew and worked with Dave will remember him as a wonderful colleague, friend, and mentor.

Ralph Rossum, former director, Rose Institute; Salvatori Professor of American Constitutionalism

He was a great friend and mentor for many generations of students at the Rose Institute, and a key driver behind much of the Rose Institute's research. He was incredibly knowledgeable when it came to Southern California government - it seemed to students as if he knew just about every person working in local government in the Inland Empire. His dedication to ensuring that students had meaningful research and learning opportunities added a great deal to my time at CMC. He'll be sorely missed.

––Alex Bentley ’14

Dave loved CMC. For many years, he enthusiastically promoted the Rose Institute and the college in communities throughout Southern California. He also was a loyal and generous mentor and friend to CMC students, faculty, and staff. His passing is a personal loss, as well as a loss for the College.”   

––Ken Miller, Associate director, Rose Institute; associate professor of government

“Huntoon” as we students called him had a presence. He had a stern, all-business look, and he was tall. In fact, I had to tilt my head back to look him in the eye when I first met him at the Rose Institute's freshman new-hire dinner in 2010. He loved getting to know Rose students. He often wandered into the main workroom area, stood quietly, and listened to conversations or ongoing debates among students, then jump in himself… One of my favorite memories was the time he gave me a compliment. I was on the phone trying to collect information for the Kosmont Survey from a city official, and he came into the workroom. When I finished the call, he gruffly told me he was impressed with my demeanor with the city official. Since I wasn't staffed on any of his projects, it was the only time he complimented my work. But it stuck with me, and it's one of my dearest memories of him.

––Gavin Landgraf ’14

Dave was a true friend and an irreplaceable asset at the Rose Institute and Claremont McKenna. He helped me and countless other students get hands-on involvement with a variety of projects, and build relationships with business leaders and elected officials in California. Through his contacts, he helped me land my first job after graduation, and I still work with many of the people I met during my time at the Rose Institute. But most importantly, Dave was incredibly outgoing, friendly, and truly cared about your success and getting to know you. I remained close friends with Dave after graduation, and he will truly be missed

––Jeff Simonetti ’05