Hill, 94, gave many students first taste of humanities
University philosopher Knox Hill, who taught at Chicago for 41 years, died Thursday, Feb. 3, in Hyde Park. He was 94.
A great lover of the arts, Hill dedicated much of his work to educating students about the value of the humanities. He was instrumental in creating the University’s introductory sequence to the humanities, a three-course program that gave many students their first real taste of art, music, literature and poetry. He also designed programs at the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Costa Rica that mirrored the University’s own humanities sequence.
“Knox was a great example for students in that he exemplified the kind of well rounded, well informed, responsible humanist that we were trying to create,” said Edward Rosenheim, the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature, who worked closely with Hill in the Division of the Humanities. “The humanities sequence required exposure to imaginative literature and philosophy, to visual arts and music and literature, and Knox was beautifully equipped to handle these things.”
Born Dec. 15, 1910, in Oak Park, Ill., Hill lived in Hyde Park most of his life, where his father was a teacher at the University Laboratory Schools. He was an accomplished classical pianist and organist—at one time he contemplated a career on the concert stage—and earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music from Chicago. During the Great Depression, he served as organist and choirmaster at several local churches and assisted with music at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.
While a doctoral student and Instructor at the University, Hill joined the ROTC and within months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, was called to active duty. At the war’s end in 1945, Hill continued his studies at the University and helped teach the great influx of returning veterans. Hill was an Instructor until 1948, and then an Assistant Professor until 1954 when he completed his Ph.D. in Philosophy and joined the faculty. He was a Professor in Philosophy and the College until his retirement in 1980. Hill’s philosophical interests were dominated mostly by developments in the contemporary theory of aesthetics by such thinkers as Croce, Dewey and Hume, but he also studied Aristotelian ethics and pre-Socratic Greek philosophy. In addition to articles in scholarly journals, Hill wrote Interpreting Literature: History, Philosophy, Fiction, Drama, Rhetoric (1966), in which he provided a guide for students and teachers on how to carefully read and analyze different forms of the written word.
Hill was director of undergraduate programs in Philosophy at the University, editor of the Journal of General Education, the University Examiner, and Secretary of the Faculties, a position that made him responsible for recording minutes for all of the University’s ruling bodies. In 1953, he won the University’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.
Hill was preceded in death by Pauline Willis Hill, his wife of 38 years. Their children, Virginia Hill Carpenter, Joan Fee Dutton, Thomas Hill and Susan Ireland Burnett, three grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren, survive Hill.
A memorial service is planned for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, at Bond Chapel, 1025 E. 58th St., on the University campus. A reception will follow at the Quadrangle Club, 1155 E. 57th St.