NDSU’s newest academic building will have a new name after the State Board of Higher Education approved the renaming of the STEM Building to the A. Glenn Hill Center.
The new name honors Professor A. Glenn Hill, a faculty member in the Department of Mathematics from 1927 to 1967 and chair of the department from 1943 to 1967, who had a profound impact on generations of scientists and engineers who graduated from NDSU. The university requested the new name after receiving a substantial gift commitment from a philanthropist who wanted to honor the legendary teacher, author and researcher. The gift will support students studying in fields of mathematics, engineering and science.
The A. Glenn Hill Center opened to classes in January 2016. It is a student-focused environment made up entirely of classrooms, labs and study areas, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is designed for hands-on learning that is a differentiator in the educational environment at NDSU.
Hill was a dedicated teacher and a pioneer in pedagogy and advocacy for mathematics. Under his leadership, the department grew from six full-time members in 1943 to 20 faculty and eight graduate assistants in 1961, while the number of students tripled, and the number of higher-level courses was expanded.
He developed an accelerated program for the department, and was co-author of three books on mathematics, which were widely used at the time. He was the author of a number of publications on mathematics and was instrumental in the adoption of new mathematical concepts and procedures.
During his 39 years at the university, Hill was an active participant in campus events. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Service Award by Blue Key in 1948, and in 1960 was selected to give the university’s Faculty Lecture, a high honor bestowed by his peers. He led or participated in numerous other campus and community groups.
Hill was born in Erie, North Dakota, to a family dedicated to college education. He was a country school master before entering NDSU and earning his bachelor’s degree in 1927. He took a leave of absence from teaching at NDSU to earn his master of science degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1931.
A 1960 newspaper column described his professionalism, effective but unassuming leadership, and integrity, along with the importance of the department to the institution. “To become an engineer, a chemist and to be adequate in a number of other fields, one most know how to calculate,” the columnist wrote.
The columnist goes on to describe how Hill came to join the faculty: “It was while he was studying calculus that one of the biggest moments of his life occurred. The math department head… summoned him one day and designated him a teaching assistant. This was news to speed to Erie: Glenn was now a ‘college teacher.’ ”
Hill had offers to move on to bright lights in big cities, but always declined. “It’s not that I do not like money or place,” he said. “It is that I like North Dakota, and Fargo, and the college and the young people I work with more.”
Hill died in January 1967, a few months before his scheduled retirement that June. One of the news reports after his death lamented his loss to the university, saying “He had been so much of the school since 1927 that many students can’t remember when he wasn’t a part of it.” The writer also acknowledged his stint as an acting athletic director in 1954 during a period of uncertainty, while maintaining his effectiveness as an instructor. He reportedly had a chance to sign with a major league baseball team when he was 15, but his parents were opposed to Sunday baseball, and so he did not sign. He played college football briefly, until he was injured.
The state of North Dakota provided $29.4 million for the structure, which is located east of the Memorial Union and west of Churchill Field. The 119,505 square-foot facility has 23 labs, nine classrooms and 13 study areas, and the spaces have great flexibility, allowing specific use to change hourly depending on the class schedule. Classroom capacity ranges from 24 to 300 students, and serves up to 5,000 students every day.
NDSU will formally dedicate the new name during Homecoming activities later this fall.
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