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Minute on Life of Prof. A. S. Hill '53


The following minute on the life and services of Professor A. S. Hill '53 was placed upon, the records of the faculty of Arts and Sciences at a recent meeting:

Adams Sherman Hill became a member of this Faculty in 1872, at the age of thirty-nine, when he was appointed Assistant Professor of Rhetoric. In 1875 he successded Francis James Child as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. He resigned in 1904. Thus it appears that he gave instruction in English Composition in the University for thirty-two years.

Mr. Hill's intellect was swift and subtle in its operation, frank and uncompromising in its expression. His critical powers were keen and accurate, and they had been trained to practical uses by his study of the law and his experience as a newspaper correspondent. His talent for detecting the besetting sin of a young writer and for characterizing it in a pungent phrase amounted to genius. His vivacity was amazing. He came to each day's tasks as fresh as if he had never been through them before. Often as he had to say the same things, he never said them twice alike. His comments were so sharp and searching that they sometimes irritated for the moment. But the irritation was salutary: the sting soon vanished, the lesson remained. For every student who was good for anything felt, upon reflection, that the criticism was wise and just, that its form was inevitable, and--above all things-- that the spirit that prompted it was sincere and kind, and he soon found that the seemingly ruthless critic was as quick to appreciate merit as to uncover faults or to expose pretentious emptiness.

Mr. Hill's greatest service to the University, apart from his teaching, was his organization of the Department of English. He was chairman of the Department for many years, and the development of courses of study in the later periods of literature was largely his work. His views were broad and generous. He valued scholarship wherever be found it, even when it lay outside of his own particular interests. He was, in fact, the least dogmatic of men, despite the impression to the contrary which his vigorous way of speaking frequently made upon those who did not know him well. He was a firm believe in free discussion, and he listened readily to the suggestions of his younger associates. It never entered his head to dictate a policy. If he ruled at all, he ruled by love.

In the deliberations of this Faculty Mr. Hill took a leading part as long as his health allowed. He was a fearless debater, and made no concessions when he believed the cause of sound learning and liberal culture was at stake. Though his own activities were concerned with the modern world and though he was by temper progressive he always stood firm in support of the classics and in opposition to every reduction in the length of the college course.

Mr. Hill was a great teacher and an able administrator, and as such he will not soon be forgotten. He has left an impress upon American education that can never be effaced.

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