Dr. Hill, a legend at UF medical school, dies
Published: Monday, August 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 1, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
Dr. Hugh M. Hill, longtime associate dean for student and alumni affairs in the University of Florida College of Medicine, died Sunday at his home. Dr. Hill, professor emeritus in the department of obstetrics and gynecology, was 81.
"'Smiley' Hill was the first dean of student affairs the University of Florida ever had, and he was absolutely unique," Dr. Lee Dockery, former dean of the College of Medicine, recalled Sunday. "His students and his patients were his life."
"We are saying goodbye to a legend," added Dr. Robert Watson, the college's senior associate dean for educational affairs. "Always optimistic, energetic, dedicated to students. . . . I think he's irreplaceable. There will never be another Smiley Hill."
Dr. Hill was born in Columbia, S.C., and raised in Greensboro, N.C. He earned his bachelor of science degree from Davidson College, where he was president of the student body. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
He earned his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and completed his internship and residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
His first faculty appointment was as an instructor of gynecology at Johns Hopkins, and he subsequently served as an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Dr. Hill moved from Chapel Hill to Gainesville in 1959 to join the faculty of the University of Florida College of Medicine.
Two years later, he was honored with the college's Outstanding Teaching Award. He was named assistant dean of students in 1963.
Dr. Hill picked up the nickname "Smiley" as a student at Davidson in North Carolina. It stuck with him throughout his career in UF's College of Medicine.
"No other medical school has a Smiley Hill," said Watson. "He was a totally biased advocate for students, who could do no wrong. He actually has given his life to students. His influence here is so great that I sometimes refer to this as the Smiley Hill College of Medicine."
Dr. Hill's cackling laugh was his calling card, and it was with him to the end, Watson reports.
Laughter was his way of connecting with students, grabbing their attention in the classroom and putting their troubles into perspective on stressful days.
As Dockery put it, Dr. Hill could never sneak up on anyone, because his infectious laugh would precede him by 50 yards.
"You'd come upon him in the hall, surrounded by a clutch of students, talking about anything and everything," Dockery recalled. If Dr. Hill met a former student years later, Dockery said, he'd remember the graduate by name.
He was named godfather to three children of former students and 23 other children, and delivered dozens more of his students' babies. Twenty-five have grown up to become second-generation medical students at UF, Larry Lansford reported in his 1998 portrait of Dr. Hill for Florida Physician magazine.
Welcoming each incoming class of medical students on orientation day, Dr. Hill would stand on stage flanked by two vases of red roses.
"I'd tell them 'Look at the roses here on stage. You won't see any more roses again until graduation. In between, there may be some thorns, some sadness and blighted blossoms. But in the end, you'll see the roses again on the glorious day of your graduation,' " he told Lansford.
Four years later, at commencement, the same students would march up between ranks of roses to receive their diplomas and accept their hoods as newly minted medical doctors from Dr. Hill.
He hooded every graduating class between 1961 and 2001, when he retired. That's more than 3,000 students.
He was a seven-time winner of the Outstanding Clinical Teacher Award and a four-time recipient of the Hippocratic Award, the most prestigious teaching award presented to a medical faculty member by the senior class.
He was named an honorary alumnus by the University of Florida Alumni Association in 2000.
Dr. Hill retired in August 2001, as associate dean for student and alumni affairs, after 42 years of service.
He was a Diplomat to the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, as well as a member of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association. He was also a member of the Johns Hopkins Medical and Surgical Association and vice president of the alumni association of the Johns Hopkins College of Medicine.
He was a member of the Howard A. Kelly Society and the South Atlantic Obstetric Gynecologic Society. He also held memberships in the medical associations of Florida and Alachua County.
He was elected to the honorary medical society, Alpha Omega Alpha.
Dr. Hill was a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. He enjoyed Civil War history and memorabilia, gardening and ornithology. He was a member of the Gainesville Country Club and SAE fraternity.
Survivors include his wife, Ann Lazonby Hill of Gainesville, and daughter Grace Hill of Washington, D.C.
In 1998, Dr. Hill was asked what he thought his legacy to the medical school would be.
Smiley's response was "Oh, a few happy memories."
Diane Chun can be reached at (352) 374-5041 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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