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Honorary doctorate goes to commencement speaker, professor Jim Hills

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

One of Corban's best-known figures, professor Jim Hills, received an honorary doctorate at the college’s 61st graduation ceremony on Saturday.

An English and writing professor at Corban for the last 34 years, Hills is a favorite among current students and alumni. His career contributions also reach beyond campus, as he’s been a writing instructor of Salem-area community college students and prison inmates.

At graduation on Saturday, Hills was honored by Corban President Reno Hoff, and his colleagues presented him with a doctoral stole. After receiving a standing ovation, he gave the commencement address to the 206 members of Corban’s class of 2007.

Prior to the ceremony, Hills’ English colleagues expressed enthusiasm for the college’s decision to honor him.

“Jim’s a true Renaissance scholar,” said English department chair Dr. Marty Trammell. “His mastery of English, his compassion for students and his ability to extricate God’s wisdom from various texts and genres has made him a champion of what it means to be truly human as a Christian gentleman and scholar.”

“Jim Hills is so deserving of this award because his understanding of literature and his ability to teach it equal or exceed doctorate proficiency,” said fellow English professor Dr. Colette Tennant.

“He has consistently maintained strong relationships with his students, continuing to mentor them in writing and literature even after graduation,” added Dr. Richard Caulkins. “He is also a joy to have as a fellow professor.”

Born in Ithaca, New York in 1943, Hills earned a bachelor’s degree from Los Angeles Baptist College (now The Masters College) in 1965. In 1968, he received a second bachelor’s and a master’s from California State University at Los Angeles.

 

He and his wife, Bonnie, arrived in Oregon in 1973, when he took the teaching job at Corban. The couple has four children. Hills has been an adjunct faculty member at Chemeketa Community College since 1982, a job that’s included teaching at the Oregon State Correctional Institution and the federal prison in Sheridan.

Other accomplishments include a decade of refereeing for the Boys and Girls Club of Salem and publishing more than 50 articles. He’s also been a camp speaker, pulpit supply speaker and public address announcer for Warrior sports.

His 34 years at Corban have left a significant footprint, as he’s chaired the English department and been active in the start of freshman Thought and Culture classes, a core component of Corban’s Christian general education.

When asked about his motivation for teaching, Hills said, “Put briefly, my mandate as a Christian teacher is this: to help my students know and feel what it is to be fully human, a being created and redeemed by the wisdom, power and love of God and to teach them to think, speak and act out of the strength, dignity and joy that this knowledge brings.”

“He has the rare ability to touch everyone’s life exactly where they need it most,” commented senior Emma Buscher. “He does it in class, but that’s simply who he is.