A history of generosity.Each of us finds inspiration from our own unique sources. Paul Hill was moved by the inspiration of all inspirations: Mother Teresa.
As part of a CEO group visiting India two decades ago, Hill had the opportunity to hear the revered nun speak. The petite, wrinkled icon shuffled into the room, stepped onto a wooden box and began to talk. Instantly, he recalls, her presence filled the room, defying her physical stature. She told the group members to return to their homes, identify the most pressing need in their community and then to apply their considerable talents - not just their financial wealth - to addressing that problem.
Her presentation reaffirmed his and his family's belief in the importance of supporting education as a means to afford the up and coming generation the opportunity to achieve excellence.
The Hills had long been among the most significant supporters of Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, a relationship dating back to Pere Murray's arrival in Saskatchewan and Fred Hill's active support of the school. Paul Hill took his commitment to education to a higher degree.
First he pledged $10 million to the business school at the University of Regina, now known as the Paul J. Hill School of Business, to help transform the college from an administration program to a business school. The difference maybe subtle, but Paul has drawn on his and his father's post-graduate studies to help the Regina campus build an internationally-recognized college.
Fred Hill attended Harvard's business school. Paul Hill went to the University of Western Ontario, now the Richard Ivey School of Business. Both used the case study model and it is now in place at the U of R. In doing so, he has helped forge new ties between the school bearing his name and his alma mater.
"We have in Saskatchewan probably the smartest kids in Canada and the hardest-working. All the Alberta companies want to hire a Saskatchewan person because they know the odds are very high they'll be the hardest-working or smartest in their organization," says Paul Hill of his decision to devote his focus to the Regina business school. "Now we have an administration school that has morphed into a business school"
Demand for space in the faculty has been growing, placing added pressure on the administration to expand its capacity and depth. Paul's contribution has played to the depth side of that equation, leading to a partnership with the Ivey School in London, Ontario. Known as the top-rated business school in the country, Ivey uses the Harvard case model. Ivey, says Paul, produces the second-most cases of any university in the world. Now Regina's Paul J, Hill School will join the group with a focus on developing western Canadian cases.
The partnership with Ivey also provides for student exchanges between the two campuses, a Ph.D. development program in Regina and a case method training program.
"The [western Canadian, written in Regina] cases will be disseminated around the world," Paul says of the initiative.
"We want to be the top business school in country, based in Saskatchewan," he says, adding that his contribution is also funding a scholarship to study business ethics.
Funding a university came from Paul's own college experience. His next major education initiative is focused on something he didn't experience--poverty.
Taking Mother Teresa's words to heart, he and his principal advisor - his wife Carol - set out to assess where their efforts could have the greatest impact. They zeroed in on inner city children and their difficulty in successfully completing high school.
The couple identified a highly successful program in the United States called Nativity Miguel and, after three years of studies and exploration, the One Life Makes A Difference foundation was established to bring its formula to a new school in Regina's inner city.
Nativity Miguel operates about 50 facilities, located in economically deprived inner city environments throughout America. The issues in those cities are all too familiar - dropout rates of 80 or 90 per cent, low self-esteem and so on.
The concept behind the Nativity Miguel schools involves identifying a small number of children - usually 15 to 20 per year - in grades six through eight who demonstrate strong potential and bringing them into a special learning environment. The program includes guidance and mentorship through public school, post-secondary training and into the job market. Attendees generally have an 80 per cent pass rate and most go on to university.
Called Mother Teresa Middle School, the Regina facility opened with 17 students this past September. By the end of November, attendance was running at 98 per cent, Hill proudly reports.
"These kids are fired up," he asserts, noting that the school day for these youngsters starts at 7:30 in the morning and runs until five. There are also weekend programs in the year-round school year.
"We found there are only a few (inner city) kids capable of reaching the Notre Dame experience " he offers in explaining the reasoning behind focusing on the elementary school level. "The Mother Teresa Middle School is there to increase the number of students who could go to Notre Dame or Luther or other schools in the city."
"We have a great deal of confidence that this will have the level of success of the Nativity Miguel system in the US. We are very excited about it. We're very committed to it" Hill offers, adding that the family has begun exploring the potential of developing similar schools in Saskatoon and Winnipeg where the owner of the Jets NHL team has expressed a desire to get involved.
"This is the first one in Canada, but we hope it will be picked up in other centres " he concludes.
The Hill Companies' unfailing support of education has an underlying mission of not only helping young people improve their own circumstances, but also to create tomorrow's leaders. Whether they are graduates of the Paul J. Hill School of Business or Athol Murray College of Notre Dame where the family sponsors an inspirational leaders speaking series, students are exposed to a unique set of experiences as a result of the Hill Companies financial support. The Notre Dame speaker series, for example, allows students to hear prominent figures from around the world share stories of their personal lives, achievements, mistakes and moments of learning. The most recent presenter was Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer.
Although the Hill Companies support a wide range of local fundraising efforts, everything from hospital campaigns to funding for a children's ambulance, it is the family's strong Catholic beliefs that garner a large portion of their philanthropic attention.
The family's work was recognized with an award from the National Philanthropic Association this fall, an accolade accepted by Carol.
"It's not all about the money" she offers. "It's about the heart that's behind it."
Raised on a southern Saskatchewan farm, she says they didn't have money in those days, but they could still give. She carries that philosophy with her today. Even though the family enjoys the financial wherewithal to make monetary contributions, the time and effort given to charitable causes or the less fortunate is also critical.
One reason for the national award was her singlehanded efforts to have Canada included on travelling shows of precious Vatican art pieces. Initially, Canada was not on the itinerary but her persistence led to an opportunity to meet the Cardinal responsible for the exhibitions when it was on display in the US. She argued that Canadians deserved a chance to see the art and on a subsequent visit to Rome, she received an invitation from the Cardinal to a private meeting where she was told: "my dear, you must have been saying your prayers. Only prayers could melt my heart. It's going to Canada."
The next step was creation of the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museum with Carol Hill as its founding chair. The first exhibit - a Raphael tapestry - went on display in Toronto at an event headlined by the Prime Minister.
The Hill family ties, however, reach beyond art. First Fred and now Paul and Carol are members of the Papal Foundation, a pool of money raised by a few dozen patrons earmarked for the Pope's personal initiatives, activities that would fall outside the traditional Vatican budget. Members participate in a Papal audience annually to discuss the projects undertaken with the foundation's funds.
More recently, Paul was named a Knight of St. Sylvester by Pope Benedict, an honorific bestowed on lay people for their involvement in the Church so, like the famed Beatle, he is more appropriately known today as Sir Paul.
Photos supplied by The Hill Companies
Written by Paul Martin