Mary Anne Bunton
After 30 years of service to Anderson University—as a student, supporter and Chair of the Board of Trust—Bunton remains enthusiastic about the institution’s future.
For Mary Anne Bunton, chair of the Anderson University Board of Trust, the success AU has enjoyed over the last 20 years comes down to two simple things: an unwavering commitment to Christ-centered education—and the visionary leadership of President Evans P. Whitaker.
“We have not changed our focus on Jesus Christ as the center of the University,” she said. “Dr. Whitaker is an amazing leader. He dreams big and brings those dreams to fruition; and he’s got a team of supportive people around him.”
Bunton has served the Anderson University Board of Trust for more than three decades. But she still looks forward to every meeting.
“Every time I come to a board meeting here, I feel like I’ve been in a revival. We’ve got wonderful pastors on the board. We’ve got successful business people on the board. Everybody is a great leader,” she said. Especially moving is when students are invited to come to the meetings to give a devotional or share their testimony, she said.
Bunton is humble when it comes to talking about her own accomplishments. Her AU education equipped her well for a long, productive career with Liberty Corporation in Greenville, South Carolina. A secretary at first, Bunton was promoted to a corporate planning role and worked in the company’s benefits department. By the time of her retirement, she was Liberty Corporation’s vice president of human resources.
“I was asked to explore the possibility of implementing a 401K for the employees, so that gave me a gateway into employee benefits. I worked for the broadcasting company for five years and headed up their employee benefits and then I moved back to the headquarters and headed benefits for the whole company.”
Bunton and her husband, Ray, who had a career in textiles and then ran his own landscaping business, reside in their hometown of Williamston, South Carolina. Together they raised two daughters and have three grandchildren and a great-grandchild on the way.
Bunton is active in her community and church, serving as treasurer and directing women’s missionary activities at First Baptist Church of Williamston. She also serves on the finance committee of Palmetto Baptist Association. Working with the Ladies’ Community Prayer Group, she helped establish a backpack ministry that provides meals for close to 200 children in five area schools.
Bunton counts it a privilege to serve the institution that shaped her spiritually, personally and professionally. While much has changed on Anderson’s campus since she was a student, she believes one important thing hasn’t changed: the faculty and staff continue to practice what they preach, providing a Christ-centered education.
Past. Present. Future.
When Bunton was still in high school, her teacher asked the class about their future plans.
“I had not really thought a lot about what my plans were. My dad had died the year before, and so we were still grieving over the loss of my father,” she said. “When she asked that question, I said ‘I’m going to Anderson.’ So we got home and I told my mother, and she said ‘well I think you’d better get busy and make it happen.’”
Bunton felt that, as a Christian institution, Anderson was a good fit. In those days, career options for women were very limited. She enrolled in the secretarial science program.
She’s grateful for the scholarships that helped her complete her education. One involved working the college’s switch- board, located in the Merritt Administration Building.
“We worked on the switchboard for an hour a day. We probably had about eight or nine girls that worked. Weekends were when it was really hard to get somebody to work the switchboard,” she said, adding with a chuckle, “Everybody wanted to date.”
Bunton applied for another scholarship offered by the Baraca Sunday School Class at First Baptist Church of Anderson. She telephoned Ralph King, the class teacher, saying she wanted to apply for the scholarship. Mr. King replied that nobody had ever applied for the scholarship before. She became its first recipient.
“We have not changed our focus on Jesus Christ as the center of the University. Dr. Whitaker is an amazing leader. He dreams big and brings those dreams to fruition; and he’s got a team of supportive people around him.”
– Mary Anne Bunton
Anderson University, Chair of the Board of Trust
College students were under stricter rules when Bunton was a student. The residence halls housed all women living under the watchful eye and guidance of dorm mothers. A few men lived on campus in a little house. Each hall had only one telephone.
“You had to catch it when somebody wasn’t on it talking to their parents or friends,” she said.
“Girls could not wear shorts or pants,” she said. “It was strict, but it made a big impression on all of our lives.”
Bunton found a home away from home during her years at Anderson, making lifelong friends and being mentored by faculty and staff who set a positive Christian example.
“The girls in the dorms were like sisters. We did everything together. We prayed together, we ate together, we laughed and we cried together. The teachers were loving and kind,”
she said. “Mrs. Rouse, who was the president’s wife, had a…monthly party for the students who were having a birthday that month.”
After graduating from Anderson, which was at the time a two-year institution, Bunton went on to Furman University to earn her bachelor’s degree in business.
While much has changed since she graduated, Bunton is upbeat about current students. She feels a sense of accomplishment when thinking about the many young men and women she personally encouraged to enroll at Anderson University who followed through, graduated and became successful leaders in business and industry.
“When we talk about young people, so often it’s negative. We tend to want to say things have changed. Have they? When you look at the students here, you see so many Christian students. It gives me so much hope for the future,” she said.
When serving on the presidential search team that brought Dr. Whitaker to Anderson University, Bunton recalls that during an interview he came in with a comprehensive written document outlining his vision for Anderson University.
“Within three years after he came, he had met all of the objectives of that plan. He hasn’t slowed down. I have to say that he is a true visionary,” she said, adding that Dr. Whitaker has built a wonderful administrative team that has effectively led Anderson University through a pandemic to unprecedented expansion and increased enrollment.
Bunton says God continues to amaze her as Anderson University expands its academic areas and degrees all the way up to the doctoral level and asserts that much can be accomplished with prayer and a commitment to both spiritual and professional growth of students. She’s excited about the coming of Trojan football and optimistic for future growth.
She feels that Anderson University’s best days lie ahead, primarily because of its commitment to a Bible-based, Christ-centered education and the many people who have prayed for and sacrificially given to keep Anderson University a truly special place.