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Whats In A Name? Rutgers-Newark Will Re-Honor Hill Hall Namesake
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(NEWARK) Arts and science majors at Rutgers-Newark spend a good deal of class time in Hill Hall, a major humanities and social sciences building on campus. But ask a handful of those students why it is named Hill Hall, and you either get blank stares or speculation that the name comes from its location: atop the steep hill at Warren and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Few realize it is named for Bessie Nelms Hill, and even fewer know who she was.
But that will change, come Oct. 20, when the current generation of Rutgers-Newark leaders, faculty and students pause to remember a pioneering New Jersey educator and community leader from a previous generation. On Oct. 20, the campus will re-dedicate Hill Hall in honor of Bessie Nelms Hill, the first African-American to serve on the Rutgers Board of Governors (BOG). The ceremony, which is open to the public, starts at 6:30 p.m. in Room 108 of Hill Hall. It will include the unveiling of a portrait of Ms. Hill, which will be permanently displayed in the building, and remembrances of her life and contributions as an English teacher and guidance counselor in Trenton for 40 years. Family members will represent Ms. Hill, who died in 1981 at the age of 83.
We are thrilled to have an opportunity to honor Ms. Hill in this way and re-introduce members of the university community to this remarkable woman and all that she accomplished during her distinguished lifetime, states Marcia Brown, vice provost for student and community affairs.
Bessie Hills six years of dedicated service on the Rutgers BOG, from 1965-1971, were recognized and honored in 1972, when Hill Hall opened its doors following a dedication ceremony in Ms. Hills honor. Prior to her appointment, Ms. Hill was an English teacher, department chair and guidance counselor in Trenton for 40 years, credited with inspiring and helping thousands of students including one young man, David Dinkins, who went on to become mayor of New York City. Dinkins paid tribute to Hill during a talk at R-N last May.
Bessie Hill also was a tireless activist who worked to promote equality and preserve the rights of African-Americans throughout the state and nation as a whole. She once served as state secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In addition to her work to advance the cause of African-Americans, Ms. Hill was one of the founders of the Montgomery Branch YWCA and the Carver Center YMCA, both in Trenton, and was a life member of the Board of Governors of the Trenton Council of Human Relations.
The re-dedication of Hill Hall is the latest in a series of remembrances of campus milestones that have impacted todays generation of students. Last year, the campus honored a group of student activists who had taken over Conklin Hall in 1969 to protest the scarcity of black students, black faculty and minority-oriented academic programs on campus, and to demand changes, both on the Newark campus and in the entire University. This academic year, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences-Newark (FAS-N) is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the founding of Dana College and the tradition of strong liberal arts and sciences at Rutgers-Newark. Dana College was one of the educational institutions that merged to form Rutgers-Newarks predecessor, the University of Newark.
It is fitting that in a year when we celebrate the birth of liberal arts education at Rutgers-Newark 75 years ago that we take a moment to honor a woman who played an important role in helping us become the vibrant and inclusive university community that we are today, says Edward G. Kirby, dean of FAS-N.
Hill Hall, which consists of a three-story classroom wing and an eight-story office/classroom wing, houses the offices of the FAS-N Dean. It was constructed at a cost of $5.3 million.
Hill Hall is wheelchair-accessible, as is the Rutgers-Newark campus. Rutgers-Newark can be reached by New Jersey Transit buses and trains, the PATH train and Amtrak from New York City, and by Newark City Subway. Metered parking is available on University Avenue and at Rutgers-Newark's public parking garage, at 200 University Ave. Printable campus maps and driving directions are available online at: http://www.newark.rutgers.edu/maps/index.phpo