KOKOMO, Ind. – Chancellor Emerita Emita Hill, who led a period of significant growth for Indiana University Kokomo and was its first female chancellor, will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from IU.
IU President Michael A. McRobbie will confer the degree during the IU Kokomo Commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 7.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke said the honorary degree recognizes Hill’s accomplishments supporting higher education and making it accessible to everyone, as well as trailblazing for women in leadership positions.
“Chancellor Hill has dedicated her career to helping students succeed, but she also has another passion of being a strong and active champion for women in leadership roles,” Sciame-Giesecke said. “While at IU Kokomo, she not only supported women to develop their leadership skills, she was an advisor to many, including myself. I, along with other female faculty and staff, had the benefit of her mentorship and her willingness to support our aspirations for growth in our careers.”
Hill, a resident of New Rochelle, New York, looks forward to returning to the campus she led from April 1991 to August 1999.
“IU Kokomo was such an important part of my life,” Hill said. “I’m already so grateful to IU, and for the university to grant this honor is extraordinary. It will be like going home. It’s one of several homes, but a very important home.”
She has dedicated her life to higher education, both nationally and internationally. At IU Kokomo, Hill led fundraising to build the Library Building, which included Kresge Auditorium, Alumni Hall, and the Art Gallery.
Hill is proud of that effort, both for its impact on campus and the camaraderie it built. She recalled talking with Donald Almquist, who was CEO of Delco Electronics Corp. about the project, and his decision to designate the library fundraiser as one of two in-house drives which employees could choose for payroll deduction.
“That to me was just mind-boggling, and an extraordinary expression of what IU Kokomo meant to the community,” she said. “It was something that pulled us all together, and gave me a real sense of community. There was enormous excitement about it.”
She also remembers working with the architects to create the building, and the original plan that Alumni Hall, now an open space with glass walls, be a narrower passageway between the existing Kelley Student Center and the new building.
“The architect said, ‘Let’s do something wonderful with it,’ and now we have this beautiful space,” she said. “That was a joy, very exciting.”
Later, she led efforts for approval of the building of Virgil and Elizabeth Hunt Hall, the campus science building, which was constructed after her departure. She finally saw the completed building when she returned for Sciame-Giesecke’s installation in 2014.
She also established partnerships with several international universities, including Jesus University in South Korea, which continues today.
After leaving IU Kokomo, Hill participated in international university development projects in Poland and Kyrgyzstan through the Indiana Consortium for International Programs. She also was executive director and board member of the American University Central Asia Foundation, and has served as chair of the Education Awards Committee for the New York Women’s Forum since 2010.
Now retired, she continues to write and publish. Her most recent book is a collection of oral histories, Bronx Faces and Voices, published in 2015. She has another book, A Culinary Bouquet: Stories of 20 Women in Food and Farming, under contract, and a collection of 28 oral histories of ballroom dancers being curated by the New York Public Library Performing Arts Division of Lincoln Center, New York.
Hill describes herself as an author, grandmother, ballroom dancer, pianist, and scuba diver. She’s proud of the accomplishments of her three children. Julie is a nurse practitioner in oncology; Christopher is a professor of biology at Coastal Carolina University; and Madeleine is a linguist, writer, chef, and entrepreneur.
Hill is the youngest of five sisters, all of whom earned graduate degrees. She grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and earned a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University, a Master of Arts from Middlebury College, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, in romance languages and literatures.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.