“This is My Way of Paying SIU Back”

William Hill

As William Hill reflects on a life of 94 years, his memories are vivid. And he takes great pride in a distinguished career which includes substantial contributions to his country through the military and a prominent federal agency.

The Anna, Ill., native earned a zoology degree from SIU in 1942. As World War II had broken out on Dec. 7, 1941, he enlisted in the Navy’s Reserve Officers Training School. He was called up for duty in Nov. 1942 to Northwestern University in Chicago. Upon completion of that training, he was commissioned as an Ensign. After another brief training in Washington, D.C., he was assigned to the U.S.S. Trenton, a light cruiser in the Pacific. He served on that ship until the war ended.

Following World War II, he taught high school biology and general science. However, he found it difficult to make ends meet.

“I was going broke and decided to look for something better,” Hill says. “The Food and Drug Administration had placed an advertisement seeking inspectors. I tested for the position and was one of the lucky ones to be hired.”

Hill accepted an assignment to St. Louis, where he was initially involved in the inspection of unsanitary conditions in the food industry and the illegal sales of prescription drugs. He was also involved in a nationwide investigation of the sale of amphetamines to long-haul truck drivers.

Hill’s 36.5-year career in the FDA included promotions and transfers to various locations in the country. After a transfer to San Francisco in 1956, he had ascended to senior inspector level and continued his duties in uncovering unsanitary conditions in major food manufacturing plants. This work led to substantial changes in plant operations and led to sanctions against responsible parties.

Four years later, the SIU graduate became a compliance officer in Dallas, preparing recommendations on legal cases and assisting U.S. Attorneys. The Agency established the position of Deputy District Director in 1964. Hill was promoted to that position. He returned to the West Coast in 1967, where he supervised compliance officers and assisted the director. A year later,Hill was selected to participate in the agency’s executive development program in Washington, D.C., where he was involved with congressional correspondence, monitoring hearings and drafting testimony for the FDA commissioner to present at the hearings.

“My career was exciting, with every day bringing new challenges,” he says. “The teaching background I received at SIU was beneficial, as we always had new employees coming on board that had to be trained in the law and shown how to enforce it.”
In 1970, Hill was assigned as the director of the Kansas City district, but returned later that year to San Francisco to be district director. This was ultimately the position he retired in on July 31, 1984. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, reside in Lee Summit, MO, just outside of Kansas City. The couple will celebrate 70 years of marriage on October 12, 2015.

William Hill as a SIU student

In retirement, Hill has become even more appreciative of his SIU years. When he returned to campus in 2002 to mark the 60th anniversary of his graduation, he presented the University with a $100,000 gift to establish the William C. Hill Zoology Scholarship Endowment.

“We had extra money and thought supporting SIU would be the best way to invest it,” he says. “The education I received at SIU truly prepared me for success in the FDA. It provided me with knowledge that allowed me to be a great fit for what the organization required.

“This is my way of paying SIU back.”

Hill recalls riding by SIU as a high school senior with his father, a World War I veteran. The elder Hill told his son that he would be attending the university someday.

“I discovered that SIU taught biology and that intrigued me. It was an enjoyable experience and I learned a great deal about life,” he says. “My second year, a teacher hired me into a student worker job paying .25 cents an hour.

“That was in the wake of the Great Depression. None of us had any money, but we all had a great time at SIU.”

To learn more about establishing a scholarship with an outright or estate gift, contact Gary Bogue at (405)334-2865 or garyb@foundation.siu.edu.

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