As a little girl, she loved to play school, always appointing herself as the teacher. If siblings, cousins and neighbor children were not willing to play school with Austine, she lined up dolls in classroom formation and pounded away at basics of arithmetic and reading.
She also had several role models close to her who were teachers, and watching their performance, she wanted to emulate them. Among these models were her uncle, Charles Roscoe Collins, her mother's brother; and Dora Anne Hunter Allison Spiva, her father's sister. Older cousins were also teachers.
This educator-to-be was born October 12, 1927 to William Jesse and Sadie Collins Hunter. She was born in the historic house built in 1840 by her great grandfather, William Johnson Hunter (1813-1893) and his wife, Margaret Ann (Peggy) England Hunter (1819-1894).
The first child to be born in the house was Martha Hunter, born in 1840. The house is still standing on Liberty Church Road and is used by descendants of the William Johnson Hunter family. The house was well built with a skeleton frame and ceiled with hand-hewn lumber.
Austine had three older brothers, Jackson Creed, James Jasper, and Charles Milford, and two younger siblings, William Jack and Martha Sue.
Austine Hunter Wallis enjoyed genealogy and pursued it avidly. She helped to organize the Hunter Family Reunion that meets annually at Alexander's. With early settlers so tied together by marriage, she assisted with the puzzle of who married whom and how they were related.
Martha J. Hunter (1840- 1920), first child born in the Hunter house, married Ivan Kimsey Collins (1835-1901). Ivan was the youngest of ten children born to Thompson Collins (1785-1858) and Celia Self Collins (1787-1880), first Collins settlers in Union County. Martha and Ivan Collins were parents of ten children. The sixth was James Johnson Collins who married Margaret A. Nix. They were parents of Austine's mother, Sadie Collins Hunter.
On Austine's father's side, the youngest of William Johnson and Peggy England Hunter's children was Jasper Francis "Todd" Hunter (1863- 1897) who married Martha Lucinda Souther (1867-1937), daughter of John Combs Hayes Souther (1827-1891) and Nancy Collins Souther (1829-1888). Nancy Collins was a daughter of Thompson and Celia Self Collins. The Souther-Collins marriage February 6, 1852, linked another early settlers family. To Todd and Martha Souther were born seven children. Austine's father, William Jesse, was the second born. After Todd Hunter's death in 1897, Martha Souther Hunter married her late husband's brother James A. Hunter (1847- 1912), and to them were born three children, Dora Anne, Joseph Daniel and Dan D. Getting the family lines straight and recording genealogy became one of Austine's passions.
A precocious student, Austine Margaret Hunter attended Town Creek Consolidated School and Union County High School, graduating with high honors. Her repertoire of college graduations, each with high honors, included Young Harris College; Georgia State College for Women, (1951, BS in Education, Mathematics and English); George Peabody College, Nashville, TN (1954, M Ed. Secondary Education and Mathematics); Louisiana State University, (which she attended under a National Science Foundation grant in the Mathematics Institute,1962, M. A.); and University of Georgia (1968, D. Ed., Teacher Education and Supervision).
She met Dr. George Washington Wallis, a professor at the University of Georgia. They were married August 16, 1963. To them were born two children, Andrew and Susan. Before her death, Austine Wallis was glad to welcome her first grandchild, Michael Fahey. While the Wallises lived in Athens, Austine worked on the doctor of education degree at the University of Georgia, where, from 1966 through 1968, she was a research assistant and a teacher in the Education Research Project (the education program known as TERP).
Her roster of teaching assignments through fifty-nine years as an educator began when she was a young girl of eighteen, teaching on a Provisional Certificate, and working with her Uncle Roscoe Collins at St. Mary's School in Camden County, Woodbine, Georgia. Returning north, she taught both English and Mathematics at Airline School, Hall County, and then to her alma mater, Union County High School, mathematics teacher, 1949-1955. She taught math and was a counselor at Young Harris College. At Las Cruces High School in New Mexico she taught mathematics. Then for several years she taught in the Athens, Georgia area, at Athens High School, at the University of Georgia, and began her administrative career at Pattie Hilsman Junior High in Clarke County in 1968. She also worked in Oconee County as a principal, taught mathematics for Truett McConnell College, and after retirement, continued to teach until her illness with a brain tumor brought her long and illustrious career to a close with her death July 20, 2006.
My daughter-in-law, Debra Jones, who began as a paraprofessional under Dr. Wallis as principal, states: "Dr. Wallis is the person who inspired me to return to college and complete my degree and become a teacher. She pushed me, and I found my niche as a teacher. She made a tremendous difference in my life."
How do you measure the worth of a "born" teacher? By the honor societies in which she held membership, like Pi Mu Epsilon, Kappa Delta Pi, Delta Kappa Gamma?
By the educational associations in which she took an active part as a member and served as an officer? By the number of degrees after a name? By community service and efforts to promote education ? Dr. Wallis was a founding member of the Byron Herbert Reece Society and of the Dora Hunter Allison Spiva School of Education at Truett McConnell College. All of the above, and more; an extraordinary teacher is measured by the students she touches and inspires to achieve. And the chain goes on and on, one touching the other. They all look back and say, "Austine Margaret Hunter Wallis was my teacher, and she made all the difference in my life."
c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Mar. 29, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.