Student Stories

Like Father, Like Daughter

To hear John and Jenny in their own words, visit the UChicago College SoundCloud or listen to the playlist below.

At home in Urbana, Illinois, UChicago parent John Hill isn’t far from Jenny, his daughter—or from his alma mater. For the Hills, maroon runs in the family. John (AB’63), now Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the University of Illinois School of Music, studied music at the College 50 years ago; a generation prior, his mother belonged to Robert Maynard Hutchins’s first graduating class, in 1930. Today, third-year Biology major Jenny Hill keeps the legacy going.

Jenny’s active involvement in the UChicago community has given John ample opportunity to revisit the campus he once called home. On any given weekend, you might find him cheering on the Maroons at a swim meet (Jenny is a co-captain) or enjoying a University Symphony Orchestra concert (Jenny plays the violin). Recently, father and daughter spent a leisurely lunch in Bartlett—the gymnasium-turned-dining-hall where John endured P.E. class decades earlier—swapping stories of College culture and curriculum.

Much has changed in the decades since John first came to Hyde Park. Before the Reg was the place to be, students studied and socialized at Steinway’s Drugstore on 57th Street, where John says professors led a "non-stop, multi-year Plato seminar" out of a single booth. But while neighborhood hangouts thrived, the on-campus community lacked the closeness forged by today’s residence halls and dining commons. John never got to know his neighbors in the New Dorm back in 1960, but proud Rickerteer Jenny bonds with her housemates through trips downtown, IM sports, and meals in Bartlett.

Still, some things never change. John sees traces of an old class called “Philosophical Aspects of Biology” in the present-day Social Sciences sequence Mind, which Jenny cites as one of her favorite college courses thus far. Both classes challenged the Hills to think and write critically about scientific literature, emphasizing rigorous scholastic methods as much as specific material. This approach reflects a larger theme in John and Jenny’s shared experiences at the University: while the architecture and campus life have transformed over the years, the unique spirit of intellectualism on campus has never wavered.