In the sports world, she was known for being the mother of NBA star Grant Hill and the wife of former Washington and Dallas Cowboys running back Calvin Hill. But today, Janet Hill is being remembered as a legend in her own right and a role model for Black women.
Hill, who died Saturday at 74, opened doors for Black women to step into roles that weren’t available to them before.
She earned her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College in the late 1960s, where she was a classmate with Hillary Clinton. Later, she earned a master of arts degree in mathematics education from the University of Chicago. From there she took on many jobs, including as a high school and college math teacher and a mathematics researcher.
In the late 1970s, Hill she was the special assistant and White House liaison coordinator for the secretary of the Army — the first Black person to hold that position.
Then she served on numerous corporate boards, including those of Wendy’s Company, Sprint, Houghton Mifflin Dean Foods, the Carlyle Group and Esquire Bank. She was inducted into the National Association of Corporate Directors’ Hall of Fame and the Washington Business Hall of Fame.
In his memoir, “Game: An Autobiography,” Grant Hill wrote of his mother, “In a foreign world, she didn’t bend her self-worth for the sake of conformity. She made the world bend for her. She’d spend her lifetime often as the only woman of color — frequently, the only woman, period — in corporate conference rooms and board meetings. She would often hold the door open behind her, making inroads for others who looked like her to eventually follow.”
Hill was appointed a trustee at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts by Former President Barack Obama. She was also a trustee at Duke University for 15 years and was set to receive the Duke University Medals for Distinguished Meritorious Service later this year.
“We remember Janet Hill for her diligence, intelligence and direction in service to Duke,” Duke President Vincent Price said in a statement. “Janet loved Duke with the boundless passion she gave for all of her commitments, and has always worked to help Duke become even better. We are so grateful for her life, energy, and leadership, and our deepest condolences go to Calvin, Grant, and the entire Hill family.”
At Duke University, the Duke flags will be lowered until Thursday in honor of Hill.