Full of “knowledge and spirit,” Hill plans to retire after 43 years on campus

By David Cox

When the name Alexander Hill is mentioned, most current students immediately think of the Kagin Ballroom. Rarely will their first thought be of the man for whom it is named.

Alexander “Sandy” Hill, Assistant to the President and Secretary to the Board of Trustees, will retire at the end of this year and after providing Macalester College with 43 years of service.”I’ll be 71 in December and it’s just time to figure out what you’re going to do,” Hill said.

Sandy Hill grew up in Maple Plain, a small town just to the west of the Twin Cities. He graduated from Macalester in 1957 with a major in Journalism and a minor in Geography.

His next seven years would be spent in the newspaper industry, working with the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, before returning to Macalester in 1964 as the Associate Director of Alumni Affairs. Over the next four decades Hill would rise through the ranks of the Macalester administration in a number of different areas. His start was in organizing alumni functions but then his responsibilities spread to campus development projects and working as a liaison to the Board of Trustees. Throughout his tenure, Hill has worked out of the spotlight trying to improve the quality of life at Macalester.

“I’ve tried to be a problem solver,” Hill said. “I’ve been working behind the scenes to try and make things better.”

The number of projects Hill has worked on is extensive. Some of the recent major projects have been the renovation of Kagin Commons in 2002, the construction of the Campus Center in 2001 and the renovation of Olin-Rice in 1996.

Mark Dickinson, the Director of Facilities Management, has worked closely with Hill on many projects and agrees that his work is the necessary type that goes largely unnoticed by the general public.

“It’ll be hard to assess how much we miss him because much of what he does is behind the scenes,” Dickinson said. “He has worked quietly. We don’t see headlines about Sandy Hill but he has had a lot of influence on the campus.”

After retirement, Hill plans on remaining in the Twin Cities. He said he hopes to continue to be active in the community. His plans are to work with Children’s Home Society and Family Services, a non-profit, charitable organization, and other youth mentoring programs. He also mentioned his desire to make more frequent trips to his country cabin near Park Rapids, Minn., and get involved in the community there.

Those who have worked with Hill said that his years of service to Macalester are a reflection of the high esteem in which he holds his alma mater.

“He has a lot of pride in Macalester,” Erlene Lagerquist, Manager of Special Events and Hill’s colleague, said. “He has a deep caring for this place. He’s been like a thermometer of taste in that he has a strong feeling in how he wants things done. He really wants to showcase the college to the best of its ability.”

Hill credits his Macalester education with changing his perspective of the world. He noted that though the campus has changed dramatically since his time as a student, Macalester’s greatest attributes have survived through the decades.

“The remarkable thing to me is that the core values have not changed,” Hill said. “Many people think that internationalism is something that started recently, but there were 22 countries represented when I was here in the 50s. Macalester has always been on the cutting edge.”

One of Hill’s fondest memories was listening to Dr. James Robinson speak at Religion-in-Life week. Robinson, an African-American minister from New York, helped introduce Hill to ideas not discussed in rural Minnesota.

“Listening to James Robinson was a life changing experience for me and others,” Hill said. “I was raised as a Presbyterian in a typical, small, rural town. Coming to Macalester was my first experience with internationals and students of color. It was really a transforming experience for me.”

Macalester and Hill have impacted each other in a big way. During his 43 years working on campus, he met his first and second wives—both of whom died of cancer—and saw his son graduate from Macalester in 1985. Though he will no longer be employed by the college, he will remain a resource for Macalester and its students.

“I think he will still be a part of the college at many levels,” Lagerquist said. “I think he’ll remain a vital part of the institution and he’ll be called on for his knowledge and spirit.”