Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Robert Hill to Retire May 31

Issue Date: 
May 6, 2013

Robert Hill, vice chancellor for public affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, will retire from the University, effective May 31, 2013, Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg announced May 1. Hill has headed Pitt’s Office of Public Affairs since 1999.

Hill is the chief communications officer for the University. In this role, he supervises the Departments of Executive Communications, National Media Relations, University Marketing Communications, and University News and Magazines, as well as the University’s Web presence, advertising, video communications, local media relations, publications, and the University Times campus newspaper. These components of Pitt’s communications mix have regularly earned high honors in local, national, and international competitions during Hill’s tenure.

“Vice Chancellor Hill has brought a unique set of talents to his work, and together we have shared many satisfying victories,” said Nordenberg. “Among other advances, both the quality of our institutional publications and the impact of our community outreach efforts stand out. To become even more specific, his leadership efforts in creating the ongoing K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program pushed well beyond most such efforts in identifying, presenting, and preserving important aspects of the Black history of our University and its home region.”

“The University of Pittsburgh provided me with a wonderful opportunity to contribute to its early-21st-century momentum and progress,” said Hill. “I am fortunate to have led the effort to tell the remarkable Pitt story to its multiple audiences through multiple media. Now I look forward to volunteering in support of worthy community causes.”

Under Hill’s leadership, the Office of Public Affairs has gained national and international recognition for Pitt Magazine, the University’s flagship publication, of which he is publisher, and Pitt Med, the magazine of the School of Medicine. Hill founded in 2000, and is the publisher of, the Pitt Chronicle, the University’s first official weekly newspaper, and it, too, has received numerous awards. Hill also is the publisher of the annual Report of Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, and he has served as publisher of several other University publication series, including the Economic Impact Report and the Community Impact Report, as well as Blue Gold and Black, which paid tribute to the Pitt African American community.

Among the many other highlights of Hill’s years at Pitt have been:

• the branding and communications support of the University’s current fundraising campaign—the largest and most successful campaign in the history of Southwestern Pennsylvania—which grew from $500 million, to $1 billion, to $2 billion, and has now raised in excess of $2 billion two months before it concludes, on June 30;

• coining the University’s motto, “Leader in Education, Pioneer in Research, and Partner in Regional Development,” and strategically fashioning Pitt communications to support this seminal tripartite theme;

• achieving highly laudatory recognition in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,, and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review,, of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation reports on the University in 2002 and 2012;

• inaugurating a Pitt advertising display presence at Pittsburgh International Airport and an ongoing series of advertising platforms in local newspapers;

• creating and implementing a communications plan for the University’s 225th anniversary that produced exemplary results through the plan’s carefully crafted messages, materials, events, and media packages; and

• creating and leading the national award-winning 2001 public information campaign to support the successful Booster Booster program cochaired by Chancellor Nordenberg to document the second immunization against measles, mumps, and rubella of 11,000 Pittsburgh Public School District children.

Beginning in 2004, Chancellor Nordenberg and Hill established and cohosted an annual special Black History Month program. For the first program, Hill executive produced K. Leroy Irvis: The Lion of Pennsylvania, a Telly Award-winning video documentary about the legendary Pennsylvania legislator and Pitt alumnus that was broadcast on WQED. In 2008, the annual event was renamed The K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month Program and featured the world premiere screening of WQED’s Fly Boys: Western Pennsylvania’s Tuskegee Airmen. In 2009, the Irvis Black History Month Program presented the world premiere of the video documentary Blue Gold & Black: From Doorway to Distinction, based on a treatment by Hill and executive produced by him; it won two awards from District II of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Pitt-developed Salk polio vaccine being declared “safe, effective, and potent,” Chancellor Nordenberg and Hill cohosted, in April 2010, the world premiere screening of the documentary The Shot Felt ’Round the World, produced by Pitt film studies faculty member Carl Kurlander, which presents the story of the Pitt-produced Salk polio vaccine; Hill had been instrumental in securing the initial backing of the documentary that made the project possible.

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC)/Pittsburgh awarded Best of Show to the 2002 Report of Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg. And for an unprecedented two consecutive years, in 2009 and 2010, IABC/Pittsburgh awarded Best of Show to University projects: the major Pitt-created 2008-09 Free at Last? Slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th Centuries exhibition ( at the Heinz History Center, for which Hill served as executive-in-charge, that exposed for the first time the little-known story of slavery in Pittsburgh in the 18th and 19th centuries; and a Pitt K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month special event produced by Hill, the world-premiere screening of Newspaper of Record: The Pittsburgh Courier, 1907-1965. Free at Last? also won a CASE Accolades Gold Award and a Mercury Gold Award.

In 2006, the Public Relations Society of America Pittsburgh Chapter named Hill Renaissance Communicator of the Year, IABC/Pittsburgh gave him its Business Communicator of the Year Award, and CASE presented him with its Grand Gold Award as publisher of Defeat of an Enemy, a book now in the Smithsonian, in selected major university libraries, in the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and in the libraries of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The award for this book, which was produced in 2005 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Pitt-produced Salk vaccine, was Pitt’s first CASE Grand Gold Award since 1993 and one of only 13 awarded in 2006 from approximately 2,000 entries. Also, in 2010, the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation named Hill the Robert L. Vann Communicator of the Year.

Hill has been a higher education administrator since 1969, spending 21 years at Syracuse University (SU), where he served as vice president for public relations from 1988 to 1998. His work in creating and implementing a strategic communications plan for SU led to a CASE Gold Medal Award for Overall Institutional Relations Programs. He also was an assistant professor of retailing at SU.

Immediately prior to joining the Pitt administration, Hill was vice president for university advancement at California University of Pennsylvania, where he founded that university’s first official newspaper, the California Journal.

Hill has written numerous articles for newspapers and other publications, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the New Pittsburgh Courier, and he has been extremely active in public service throughout his career. He is a board member of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and a member of the NAACP-Pittsburgh Branch’s Corporate Committee.

Hill earned the Certificate in Management at Harvard University; the Master of Science degree in management with honors from Manhattan College; the Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from New York University’s Stern School of Business, where he was a Prentice Ettinger Scholar and a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar; and the Associate in Applied Science degree at Borough of Manhattan Community College, which awarded him its Dean’s Prize.

In 1979, Hill was inducted into Delta Mu Delta, the international honor society in business, and, in 2009, he was admitted to Junta, the by-invitation-only Pittsburgh discussion society.