Janet McDonald Hill ’69

1947–2022

A photo of Janet McDonald Hill '69

Photo by Richard Howard

Photo by Richard Howard

Our bond with Janet McDonald Hill began 57 years ago when we arrived at Wellesley as members of the class of 1969. Janet quickly resolved to leave, as she had never been in an environment that was so white. She often joked about calling home hoping to reach her sympathetic father, who would let her return home. Instead, her mother answered and sternly insisted that she stay. Janet did, and was popular among her classmates for her distinctive Louisiana lilt; her bright, uplifting personality; and her disciplined spirit. Janet maintained a singular focus on her major in mathematics, but whenever we called her to support Ethos, she always showed up.

In 1971, Janet married Calvin Hill, her devoted life partner for over 50 years. Calvin was a Yale football star and NFL Rookie of the Year with the Dallas Cowboys. Their only child, Grant, was an outstanding basketball player at Duke University before entering the NBA. Janet was not the traditional wife and mother of celebrity sports stars. She liked to say she had spent more time waiting outside of smelly locker rooms than anyone else, but it was time well spent, because she knew all the ins and outs of sports. She supported organizations to help mothers and wives of athletes and served on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. In addition, Grant’s wife, Tamia, is a Grammy-nominated singer, so Janet always knew more than the rest of us about sports and hip-hop.

Janet worked as a math teacher and a special assistant to the secretary of the Army during the Carter administration. She then co-founded and managed a consulting firm that advised executive clients on a wide range of strategy and diversity matters. Janet served on numerous corporate boards, including Wendy’s, Sprint, Progressive Insurance, Dean Foods, Houghton Mifflin, and the Carlyle Group, and she was inducted into the National Association of Corporate Directors Hall of Fame in 2019. She served on the Wellesley College Board of Trustees and was a vice president of the Wellesley College Alumnae Association. Janet was a generous supporter of the Washington Wellesley Club, hosting club events at high-profile venues, such as the Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap, on whose boards she served. She was a long-time member of Duke University’s board of trustees, and she was posthumously awarded the 2022 University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service.

Janet’s friendship, wit, and counsel shone in our own frequent gatherings over the years. We hosted or attended each other’s bridal, baby, and grandmother showers. We met at her favorite restaurants to celebrate our three December birthdays and, more recently, we met on Zoom. We all came to the opening of a traveling exhibition Alvia curated for Grant’s collection of African American art. When we partied at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Janet provided “Hillary’s Wellesley Classmate” pins for us to wear. Janet’s generous contribution to the Ethos 50th anniversary gift kick-started our fund-raising efforts.

Janet was a remarkable woman, as evidenced by the outpouring of grief upon the news of her passing. She was the rock of her family and adored by her two granddaughters. She was esteemed by colleagues and the many young people she mentored. Her voice is now stilled, and our own 57-year circle has lost a vital link that can never be replaced.

4 Comments

Margi Dewar (Dewar) ’70
I am so sad to learn that Janet has died! I knew her from statistics class in spring 1971 where she sat in the front row and asked probing, perceptive questions. I sat near the back of the room because I did not have a handle on the material, and I learned as much from her questions as from the professor's presentations. I remember thinking, "Oh, I get it!" when she asked a clarifying question. She was amazing!
Margi Dewar (Dewar) ’70
Oops! The year was 1967, not 1971!
Judy Hays (Cheek) ’70
Janet was often the one with the car, who posted 'available seats' to ride to Yale on Friday afternoons and back on Sunday afternoons, for her to see Calvin and me Chip, who has been my husband for 52 years. I was in awe of her then, and later when I was on the faculty at Duke, and she was on the Board. Such verve. Such dignity. Such brains. The best of Wellesley!
Sydney Stewart ’18
I am saddened to hear of the passing of Janet Hill '69 and deeply grateful for the legacy she leaves on the Wellesley community at large and the Black Wellesley community specifically. I had the privilege of co-chairing the Ethos 50th Anniversary planning committee with Anna Johnson '02 during my senior year of college and was honored to lift up the legacy of you all, the founders, of Ethos. Thank you for what you have done to make Wellesley her best and continuing to give back to the College in the many ways you do, formally and informally. May she rest in eternal peace and her legacy and name live on.

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