Alumni Christopher James Hill (1952 BSc) and Helen Hill nee Gray (1956 BSN) had more in common than just a UBC connection—they also shared a lifelong passion for helping others. As part of their extraordinary legacy, the Hills made a contribution through the The American Foundation for The University of British Columbia, and created two awards to support students in the Department of Electrical Engineering and the School of Nursing.
Helen (1933-2001) was born in Victoria and met Jim (1928-2012) who was born in Vancouver, at UBC. Helen graduated as a public health nurse. Jim was a student in the Electrical Engineering Department and they connected through a shared philosophy of compassion and hard work. They moved to California in 1957 and married later that year.
As members of the Dimond community of Oakland, California, Jim and Helen were both well known for a willingness to extend a helping hand whenever it was needed.
Helen joined the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association as a medical auditor and office nurse before completing a master’s degree in rehabilitation. She was an active member of the First Unitarian Church and also worked with seniors. Later in life, she became involved in animal welfare. She founded the Hopalong Animal Rescue, volunteered at the local shelter, and was a docent at the Zoo. She even used her home to care for sick and injured animals and is personally credited with saving hundreds of furry lives.
When Jim wasn’t working at the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, he spent his time on the Dimond Improvement Association where he focused on dismantling bureaucratic roadblocks. His efforts eventually yielded a city parking lot, a senior complex, and some wonderful flowering trees along Fruitvale Avenue.
Jim and Helen were avid travellers who promoted tolerance and understanding by sharing their adventures and insights through eagerly anticipated “travel letters” that were sent out every year. They even sponsored a weekly travel slide/video program at the Oakland main library for eight years.
Given their extraordinary propensity for leadership and volunteerism, it’s no surprise that Jim and Helen extended their efforts to help students. They made a gift from their estate to The American Foundation for The University of British Columbia to establish two awards at UBC for students in the same programs they studied in: the Jim and Helen Hill Memorial Service Award in Electrical Engineering and the Jim and Helen Hill Memorial Service Award in Nursing.
In recognition of the Hills’ extraordinary service, the awards will go to outstanding undergraduate students who demonstrate leadership through volunteerism. It is a fitting tribute to the selfless spirit that enabled Jim and Helen to improve their community and touch the lives of so many.