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Donald L. Hill
LSA Minutes


Donald L Hill, Professor Emeritus of English, died April 28, 1997. Born in Poughkeepsie, New York on July 10, 1914, Professor Hill held an A.B. degree from Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, an NI.A. from Syracuse University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, where he served on the editorial board of the literary journal Accent. From 1942 to 1945 he worked in Washington, D.C. as a cryptographer for the United States Navy. Coming to Michigan as an instructor in 1948, he advanced through the ranks to full professor in 1969. From 1957 to 1962 he chaired what was then named the Office of Junior and Senior Counselors.

A dissertation on Rudyard Kipling marked the beginning of Professor Hill's career in Victorian studies, which continued with articles on Kipling and Walter Pater. Along the way he diverged temporarily from the Victorian track to satisfy an interest in contemporary poetry; the result was Richard Wilbur-, a study of his poetry published in 1967. Returning to Pater, Professor Hill embarked on the editing of Pater's The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry, which culminated in 1980 in a definitive edition of the 1893 text with full critical apparatus. Soon afterwards he assumed the general editorship of a projected edition, in eight to ten volumes, of all of Pater's works. He remained actively involved in this ambitious enterprise after his retirement from the University in 1984.

In all his scholarship Professor Hill was an expert reader of texts, modestly seeking to clarify the subtle and elusive with his own seasoned reflections and exacting prose. His self-effacing tendencies often concealed from casual inspection the sharp intelligence, patient discrimination, and hard work that underlay the finished product. The same qualities also characterised his teaching. He understood how students thought and felt; without seeking dramatic effect, he brilliantly divined the difficulties that they would encounter with a work and devised precisely those questions that would lead them to discovery. His strategies for particular works, shared in conversations and in exemplary course syllabi, are still remembered as models by his colleagues and continue to influence their teaching.

Professor Hill is survived by his wife Helen, daughter Rebecca Hill Finney of San Diego, California, sons Anthony, Richard, and Alan, all of Ann Arbor, and five grandchildren.

Hubert English