Knox Hill, 1910-2005
The University of Chicago News Office
Feb. 7, 2005 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

Knox Hill, 1910-2005

Knox Hill
Knox Hill
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University of Chicago philosopher Knox Hill, who taught at the University for 41 years, died Thursday, Feb. 3, in Hyde Park. He was 94.

A great lover of the arts, Hill dedicated much of his work to educating students about the value of the humanities. He was instrumental in creating the University’s introductory sequence to the humanities, a three-course program that gave many students their first real taste of art, music, literature and poetry. He also designed programs at the University of Puerto Rico and the University of Costa Rica that mirrored the University’s own humanities sequence.

“Knox was a great example for students in that he exemplified the kind of well rounded, well informed, responsible humanist that we were trying to create,” said Edward Rosenheim, the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature, who worked closely with Hill in the Division of the Humanities. “The humanities sequence required exposure to imaginative literature and philosophy, to visual arts and music and literature, and Knox was beautifully equipped to handle these things. He was the ideal kind of person to make a case for the general humanities sequence.”

Born Dec. 15, 1910, in Oak Park, Hill lived in Hyde Park most of his life, where his father was a teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. He was an accomplished classical pianist and organist — at one time he contemplated a career on the concert stage — and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Music from the University of Chicago. During the Great Depression, he served as organist and choirmaster at several local churches and assisted with music at the University’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.

While a doctoral student and instructor at the University, Hill joined the ROTC and was called to active duty in 1941, within months of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served in the Army in England, North Africa and Italy, earning a bronze star for his contribution to the war effort. At the war’s end in 1945, Hill was welcomed back to the University where he continued his studies and helped teach the great influx of returning veterans. Hill was an instructor until 1948, and then an assistant professor until 1954 when he completed his Ph.D. in philosophy and joined the faculty. He was a Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the College until his retirement in 1980.

Hill’s philosophical interests were dominated mostly by developments in the contemporary theory of aesthetics by such thinkers as Croce, Dewey and Hume, but he also studied Aristotelian ethics and pre-Socratic Greek philosophy. In addition to articles in scholarly journals, Hill wrote Interpreting Literature: History, Philosophy, Fiction, Drama, Rhetoric (1966), in which he provided a guide for students and teachers on how to carefully read and analyze different forms of the written word.

Hill was director of undergraduate programs in Philosophy at the University, editor of the Journal of General Education, the University Examiner, and Secretary of the Faculties, a position that made him responsible for recording minutes for all of the University’s ruling bodies. In 1953 he won one of the University’s prestigious Llewellyn John & Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Hill is preceded in death by Pauline Willis Hill, his wife of 38 years. He is survived by their children, Virginia Hill Carpenter, Joan Fee Dutton, Thomas Hill and Susan Ireland Burnett, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. A memorial service is planned for 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 19, at Bond Chapel, 1025 E. 58th St., on the University of Chicago campus. A reception will follow at the Quadrangle Club, 1155 E. 57th St.
Last modified at 01:05 PM CST on Monday, February 07, 2005.

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