By Jason Diaz
Rider University is mourning the loss of philanthropist Elsie Hilliard Hillman, an alumna from the class of 1948 and beloved friend of the university community. Hillman passed away at the age of 89 on the morning of Aug. 4, at UMPC Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Hillman was best known for her enthusiastic attitude. Her affable presence and contagious happiness made a lasting impression on whomever she met. In addition to her outstanding character, Hillman was a dedicated and notable member of the community in her hometown of Pittsburgh.
President Gregory Dell’Omo fondly remembered Hillman’s devotion toward her community from his time at Robert Morris University.
“Elsie was a kind and charismatic woman, deeply involved in the community and the interests that she loved,” Dell’Omo said. “Earlier this year, when I became president-elect of Rider, I met with Elsie, and her passion for Westminster was immediately evident. Elsie told me she was sad to see me leaving her beloved home of Pittsburgh, but was equally excited that I was coming to Rider.”
Starting as a campaign supporter for the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Hillman was a former National Committeewoman for the Republican party and became affiliated with prominent political leaders. Working with both Democrats and Republicans, Hillman focused heavily on key issues such as civil rights and women’s rights.
As a constant advocate for the people and communities she adored, Hillman dedicated herself to others through her support of the arts and education. As board of trustees members at Westminster and Rider, both Hillman and her husband became significant figures in providing students with the tools necessary to receive a fulfilling education.
Hillman’s legacy goes beyond her status as an alumna and friend. She is the granddaughter of Katherine Houk Talbott, a significant figure in the founding of Westminster Choir College.
Hillman was recently recognized as a key figure in the integration of the Marion Buckelew Cullen Center’s Hillman Performance Hall, a 3,000-square-foot rehearsal and performance space that opened to the Westminster community on Sept. 2, 2014. The hall was named to honor the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, which provided a $3 million grant toward its construction. The generosity of the Hillman Foundation has also provided the Westminster campus with the Elsie Hillard Hillman Chair for Artistic Direction, endowed scholarships and improved technological resources.