Tom Hill retires from senior vice president for Student Affairs


Emily Blobaum/Iowa State Daily

Tom Hill answers a phone call while organizing papers. Hill has been Vice President for Student Affairs since 1997, and announced earlier this month that he will be stepping down in December. 

Claire Norton

After 18 years of building relationships, influencing students and remaining dedicated to Iowa State and its students, Tom Hill, senior vice president for student affairs will retire from his position in late December.

Well-respected, well-liked and highly involved with the student body, Hill has decided to retire from his administrative position and move on to a less time-consuming profession: being an adviser for President Steven Leath’s administration team.

Hill will serve as Leath’s senior policy adviser, providing perspective to officials regarding university issues and policies.

Hill said his role would allow for more leisure time, which he will spend with his family.

He said his reason for retirement is so he does not reach a point where he is unsuccessfully undertaking his role.

“I don’t want to stay here until I just get to the point where everybody is wishing I would go away,” Hill said. “The timing is really good.”

Hill said Veishea and the September 29th Movement regarding controversy over the name of Catt Hall were major challenges during his 18 years as senior vice president for student affairs.

Hill also said, in regard to Veishea, that administration will support students’ ideas and their efforts toward alternative Veishea traditions.

“The traditions and the activities should be the ideas of students because it’s for them. We shouldn’t be trying to figure out what students should be doing. We should be there to support,” he said.

Hill said he has managed to accomplish an appreciation of the ISU student experience, and that people who are unfamiliar with it don’t necessarily appreciate it. He also said he has shaped and improved the Office of Student Affairs as enrollment increases, so the student experience remains the same.

Rose Wilbanks has worked closely with Hill as his secretary for the past 15 years.

“He is very good,” Wilbanks said. “He gives you confidence; he is very complimentary, so appreciative. Not very many people get to say they’ve had the same administrator they’ve worked for, for that many years.”

Jonathan Wickert, senior vice president and provost, leads the Division of Academic Affairs and said he works closely with Hill to collaborate on subjects like learning communities and student orientations as well as student veteran services.

“I think an important message about Tom is that he has a huge heart for Iowa State students,“ Wickert said. “It’s a large, record enrollment, which means Tom and his team of people have built a really strong environment on campus, where students want to come here.”

Leath said while Hill does report to him, he still considers him a close friend, and as of next semester, an adviser.

“I think he cares so deeply about the students — the fact that he can help me shape the culture and specific things here so we can continue to have a really high-quality experience for the students, that’s important to him,” Leath said.

Hill was born and raised in New Orleans, La., where he attended school through their public school system. After high school, he attended Arkansas State University as an undergraduate, where he was admitted on a track scholarship.

After five years at Arkansas State, he achieved his bachelor’s degree in physical education, while being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Around the time that Hill became commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army and graduated from Arkansas State, he made the Olympic track team.

“I was a track athlete — that’s what I got a scholarship for,” Hill said. “Between the time I graduated, got commissioned as a second lieutenant, I made the olympic team.”

Hill competed in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, where he won a bronze medal representing the Army.

His second lieutenant position was his first profession after college, where he was stationed in West Point, N.Y., for five years and completed his master’s degree in counseling from Long Island University-C.W. Post.

After his receiving his master’s, he was released from the Army and returned to Arkansas State University, where he ran an academic unit called “University College” for about three years.

Hill completed his Ph.D. in counselor education through Arkansas State with his dissertation in 1985 and continued to work as coordinator for University College.

He served as athletic director at Tulane University in New Orleans, La., and then moved to the University of Oklahoma as the assistant athletic director. He then accepted a position at the University of Florida as the dean of students.

Hill said he thought his first experiences with students were positive ones, and his impression of students has been one of just a few things over the years that has remained constant.

“When I came for an interview, one of the things that really peaked my interest, and what I really liked, was the students,“ Hill said. “And I walked away from that interview thinking that this would be a great place to be because there’s a really outstanding student body.”

Hill said he is going to miss all of the frequent interactions and meetings with students, which have led to the relationships he has built with individuals.

“That’s going to be one of the things that I’m going to miss,” Hill said. “Really stepping down from the day-to-day interactions. That’s the highlight.”

Hill also said Iowa State has a unique culture, where students provide a friendly setting that is indigenous to the university, and his experiences at Iowa State have been positive.

“As a matter of fact, it’s been 18 years, and it’s only gotten better,” Hill said. 

This also applies to Iowa State’s faculty, he said, as faculty and staff have been around for years.

“The Iowa State culture is one that really grows on you,” Hill said. “For example, people [at Iowa State] are interested in serving and getting ‘it’ done. They have a deep love for the institution.”

Hill hopes the next senior vice president for student affairs will supply great amounts of energy and be interested and involved with the students.

“They need to be out there with the students,” he said. “They need to know what is going on. The students need to know them. Not just by them coming here. I think the vice president — the way I view it — needs to be out and about with students in their environment.”

Hill said his best memory at Iowa State was during the annual Student Recognition Ceremony, which he hosted, where students were recognized for their outstanding achievements.

Wickert said he hopes that the new senior vice president for student affairs will provide the same passion, making an effort to connect with ISU students. 

“[Hill] has set a very high bar and has just made an incredibly positive impact on this campus and I hope that the next senior vice president for student affairs is also a strong collaborator,” Wickert said. “And also has a keen focus on the success of every single student on campus.“

Leath said he hopes the next person in the position will demonstrate his or her love for the university’s students and culture, as a whole.

“I hope whoever comes in cares as much about the students as [Hill] does,” Leath said. “Do I want him to be a good manager? Yes. Do I want him to be a good leader of that whole division on campus, which is a third of the responsibility? Yes. But I want someone that also actually cares deeply about the students because if you are motivated by that, it’ll be highly likely they’ll get things right.”