Through two world wars, charismatic 'Miss Hill' made impact on students
Monday, April 3, 2006
Throughout most of the first half of the 20th century, Helen Hill was a dramatic and influential presence on campus. Jerome Miller, now 80, recalls vividly the stately teacher, mentor and friend he first met his first day on campus in 1946.
"She had real charisma," said Miller, who as a student frequently had the honor of being invited for tea at the home Hill shared with fellow faculty members and a succession of Boston terriers – all named Bunker.
"She had this deep smoky contralto, and when she was writing on the board the costume jewelry she loved jangled. It was almost mesmerizing."
According to Edwin Cates Centennial History of St. Cloud State College, Hill was "tall, erect, energetic, athletic" and "outspoken when irritated as the time she pulled a young man out of a car by his coat tails, saying, Havent you heard of Emily Post? A lady precedes a gentleman into an automobile."
Yet, Cates continued, "Miss Hill could be extremely patient and sympathetic with a student for whom literature was difficult. … Students often grumbled over the long assignments, but she always replied, Are you in here to play tiddly winks, or to learn about literature?"
Miller went on to pursue careers as a teacher, a textbook salesman for McGraw Hill and an antiques dealer before retiring in his hometown of New London.
While Hill taught at St. Cloud State, from 1915-52, she launched the College Chronicle newspaper and led the campaign to rebuild the Talahi Lodge student recreation center. In 1962 an SCSU student residence hall was named for Hill, and in 1967 she received the St. Cloud State College Distinguished Alumni Award. Her friend Jerome Miller was there for each occasion. She died in 1971 at the age of 87.