Philadelphia University teaches our students to be professionals who exercise personal responsibility, ethical action, and support for the community. Our good friend Elsie Hillman, who passed away on August 4, epitomized these characteristics. She was a philanthropist and political activist who remained steadfast to her personal convictions and contributed to the greater good. Her civic contributions included establishing the Republican Future Fund in support of centrist policies and female politicians, establishing the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, opening the Hillman Cancer Center, outreach to victims of AIDS, and more.
I met Elsie when Philadelphia University first sought partners to support the Arlen Specter Center for Public Service. Elsie had been Senator Specter’s friend through her time as a member of the Republican National Committee and her prominent role in the Republican Party. She was enthusiastic about the Arlen Specter Center’s mission to promote nonpartisan public service and civil education. At the time, PhilaU was looking for a climate-controlled location to store the Arlen Specter Collection, which consists of more than 2,700 containers of papers, photos, audio and video materials, and memorabilia. Elsie wasted no time in fostering a partnership between PhilaU and the University of Pittsburgh, and now Pitt’s University Library System has organized and will store the collection for 30 years, with much of it being digitized for educational use.
Elsie also made a number of additional key introductions at that time in support of the Arlen Specter Center. We were introduced to Terry Miller, the director of Pitt’s Institute of Politics, and then-Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, who now also works with the Institute of Politics. Ms. Miller and Mr. Nordenberg were valuable resources in planning for the Arlen Specter Center. We also met Dana Brown, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics. Thanks to this introduction, the Arlen Specter Center and the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics will collaborate on events in 2015 and 2016. We are thrilled that we will be able to engage with one of Elsie’s most important projects.
When we dedicated the Arlen Specter Center for Public Service in September 2014, Elsie flew in from Pittsburgh for the ceremony. Following the ribbon-cutting, we presented the Center’s two inaugural public service awards. Physician assistant studies student Emily Reynolds ’16 received the Elsie H. Hillman Award for Student Public Service for her volunteer work with Relay for Life, Colleges Against Cancer, Habitat for Humanity, and Global Medical Brigades in Honduras. Elsie presented Emily the award, and Emily and Elsie both grew emotional as Emily thanked her.
That was the kind of person Elsie was: an engaged investor and philanthropist who cared deeply about her causes and the people she served, all the while being unfailingly polite, sophisticated, charming, funny, and authentic. She was the perfect embodiment Philadelphia University’s principles, and we have benefited immeasurably from her friendship. She will be deeply missed and forever remembered.