It is with great sadness that the Chatham University community learned of the passing earlier today of Elsie Hilliard Hillman, the nationally renowned and admired Pittsburgh philanthropist, civic leader, champion of political engagement and moderation, and tireless worker on behalf of causes of great importance to her – including the rights of women, minorities and gay community. Her passing is not just a loss for the Hillman family, her many friends, and the political world, but a loss of a piece of Pittsburgh’s heart as well.
Elsie and the Hillman and Hilliard families have enjoyed a long and close relationship with Chatham. Her late brother Tom Hilliard was for many years a Chatham Trustee before becoming an Emeritus Trustee, a position he held until his passing last year. And Elsie’s grandson, Henry Simonds, is currently a Chatham Trustee, carrying on the Hillman and Hilliard families’ legacy at Chatham.
Elsie’s and the Hillman family’s generosity to Chatham includes endowing the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics at Chatham University, a leader in the effort to engage more Pennsylvania women in the political process, as well as the Elsie Hillman Chair in Women & Politics, which brings women leaders of national and international stature to Chatham. Elsie is also an honorary Chatham alumna, having received an honorary Doctor of Public Service from Chatham in 1993.
Elsie was also personally engaged with Chatham – and especially with Chatham students – on many fronts. One of Elsie’s great joys was meeting and interacting with young people, especially Chatham students. If one looks back at all of the pictures of Elsie posing for photographs with past Hillman Chairs and Chatham undergraduates over the years, it is never quite clear who is having more fun: the students or Elsie! Just this past spring, Elsie took part in the Pennsylvania Center for Women & Politics New Leadership program, which prepares college-age women from around the state for leadership roles. Earlier in the spring, she participated in the campus visit by newswoman Cokie Roberts, whose lecture and appearance on campus was made possible through the Hillman Chair.