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Henry A. Hill Award Information
An Appreciation
- From an appreciation of Henry A. Hill delivered by Arno Heyn at the 1991 Hill Award meeting and based on notes of the late Larry Powell.
Who was Henry A. Hill? Henry Hill was Chairman of our Section in 1963. He was very active in the national ACS, and after being a member of, and chairman of several of its committees, especially notably his service on the Professional Relations Committee, where he drafted the Professional Employment Guidelines. He was Director of the ACS in 1971-1975 and was elected in the Fall of 1975 to serve as President-Elect in 1976 and became President in 1977.
Born in St. Joseph, Missouri he obtained a bachelor's degree from Johnson C. Smith University, then a segregated university for "colored" students, as, they were then called. Because of his excellent record he was accepted at M.I.T., to study organic chemistry, and obtained the Ph.D. in 1942 working under Prof. Robert C. Hockett. He had the highest grades of the graduate students in his class. While at M.I.T. he became acquainted with Prof. James Flack Norris of whom he said:
        He was the first big man I met who was more interested in my ability to learn chemistry than in the identity of my grandparents
Not being able to obtain a position in industry because of prevailing discrimination, he and a few colleagues established a small consulting business. In 1946 he joined Dewey & Almy Co. as Research Supervisor and in 1952 he became Vice President of National Polychemicals which was active in polymer chemistry. He obtained patents for blowing agents.
In 1961 he established his own research and consulting business, "Riverside Laboratories" to be able to pursue his research interests and to allow him to participate in ACS activities.
After his untimely death in 1979, friends and colleagues in the Northeastern Section established the Henry A. Hill Award for Outstanding Service to the Northeastern Section. The first award was made posthumously to Henry A. Hill in 1980, his son Anthony C. Hill, then a reporter for WGBH, accepting the award. Since then, 23 members of this section have been thus honored and thereby honored the memory of Henry A. Hill.
- By Arnet L. Powell -- From a talk given at the March 1982 meeting of the Northeastern Section on the occasion of the Third Henry A. Hill Award for Distinguished Service to the Northeastern Section.
Dr. Henry A. Hill, the renowned chemist in whose memory this award was established, was a former Chairman of the Northeastern Section (1963) and President of the American Chemical Society in 1977. Henry's outstanding contributions to chemistry, particularly industrial chemistry, and to the professional welfare of chemists are legion but unfortunately only a capsule review can be given here. Dr. Hill's first concern and interest was in his fellow humans and this was the driving force behind all that he did both in the chemical community and the world at large.
Henry Hill was a native of St. Joseph, Missouri. He was a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina and received the Ph.D. degree from M.I.T. in 1942, after getting the highest grades in his class. He began a professional career in industrial chemistry in that year, working largely with plastics, polymers, rubbers, adhesives and foams. In the early 1950's, Henry became on of the founders of National Polychemicals, Inc., serving as Vice President of that firm for five years.
In 1961 Dr. Hill decided to start a company of his own, feeling strongly that this was the only way that he could justify his professional education and fulfill his personal ambitions in life. He told me in a private conversation at the time that he wanted to do more than just make a comfortable living in his chosen field : he wished to develop to the maximum extent possible his professional knowledge and expertise and do something worthwhile with it in the private sector. He founded Riverside Research Laboratory, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. On a modest basis and in 1964 moved to larger quarters in the Haverhill, Massachusetts Industrial Park. I remember receiving a formal notice regarding this move in the form of a nicely printed card which exhibited the characteristic Henry Hill flair for originality. The card read "Riverside Research Laboratory is changing rivers: we are moving from the Charles in Cambridge to the Merrimack in Haverhill." The firm offered research, development and consulting services in resins, rubbers, textiles and plastics. Dr. Hill's clients included companies here and abroad. In the latter category was the government of Trinidad where Henry liked to combine business with a winter vacation in the sun. Riverside Research Laboratory introduced four successful commercial enterprises, including its own manufacturing affiliate. Dr. Hill, particularly after having been appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to the National Commission on Product Safety, became active in research and testing programs in the field of product flammability and product safety.
The American Chemical Society was always very close to Henry Hill's heart. His active career with the ACS began in the middle nineteen fifties in the Northeastern Section. He credited Edward R. Atkinson, the 1956 Chairman, as starting him on the road to the presidency of the American Chemical Society. Henry served on Northeastern Section committees, became a councilor in 1961 and was Chairman of the Section in 1963. He served the ACS in important National positions including secretary and chairman of the Professional Relations Committee, the ACS Council; Policy Committee, the Board of Directors, and ultimately president in 1977. He made an especially significant impact in professionalism by pioneering establishment of a set of guidelines defining acceptable behavior for employers in their professional relations with chemists and chemical engineers. This effort resulted in the ACS landmark document entitled "Professional Employment Guidelines." [The sixth edition was before the Council at the recent National ACS Meeting in Boston, ed.]
I now conclude my "Recollections of Dr. Henry A. Hill" with a few personal reminiscences. At the Boston National ACS Meeting in April 1973, I attended on invitation a meeting of the Board Committee on Professional, Public and Member Relations chaired by Dr. Hill. A discussion on Project Catalyst, a summer educational program for disadvantaged high school students, took place. Henry was trying to set up a medium to raise more funds for this program. Former ACS President Alan Nixon responded with a twinkle in his eyes that he believed the project to be important enough to get out a white paper on it. Not to be outdone Henry Hill came right back with: "Yes, but it is my observation that every white paper must have a lot of black ink imprinted on it."
While studying at M.I.T., Dr. Hill came in contact with Prof. James Flack Norris who had an enduring influence on his career. Norris, besides being a great teacher, was noted for his decency and humanity. Henry later said, "He was the first big man I met who was more interested in my ability to learn chemistry than in the identity of my grandparents." Years later while Chairman of the Northeastern Section, Dr. Hill was instrumental in establishing the James Flack Norris Award in Physical Organic Chemistry. I am happy that I was able to assist Henry in this endeavor, presenting the first such award to Sir Christopher Ingold at the Atlantic City ACS meeting in 1965, during my tenure as Chairman of the Northeastern Section.
Finally, in the realm of hobbies and outside interests, I know that Henry Hill liked hot jazz and similar types of music. I remember one evening back in 1967, sitting with him and Dave Roethel in the night club just off the lobby of the Montmartre Hotel in Miami Beach, discussing ACS professional relations, or trying to, to the background of a very loud jazz band. After some time my aching ears prompted me to suggest moving to a quieter location. My suggestion was met with surprisingly stiff reprimand by Henry, and there was nothing else to do but stay in the deafening environment.

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