Charles Hill Fund for Liberal Education

Est. 2021 by Norma Thompson and Justin Zaremby.

Charles Hill
Charles Hill. Photo credit: Laura Oh (Yale 03)

The late Charles Hill loved ideas, the sweep of them, the possibilities that lived in them.

He worked for years in foreign service as a diplomat and an advisor to Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz and United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Even in those busy posts, “he always had books with him. He was always thinking about ideas, creating files on interesting matters, constantly planning to come back to certain ideas or cultures or themes that seemed worthy of reflection,” says his widow Dr. Norma Thompson, Senior Lecturer in the Humanities at Yale.

After leaving foreign service, Hill began teaching at Yale University where he was a Diplomat-in-Residence in International Security Studies, co-founded the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy and was a “a beloved mentor to generations of Yale students.”

Each Friday afternoon students dropped in to talk about ideas on world events, history and culture in an office one of his colleagues described as “akin to the famous old secondhand bookstores where there would be piles and piles of books almost ready to topple over” yet the proprietor could find every book. “His office had file cabinets with meticulously labeled files,” Dr. Thompson says. “But he also had files on top of desks and tables, yet he knew where every single document was.”

In fact, when a student wanted to know more about Tibet, Hill simply turned and found a file he had gathered. He then created and taught the course, “Tibet, An Enduring Civilization.”

When Hill died in March 2021, Dr. Thompson wanted to memorialize him in a way that would “evoke who Charlie was.” Justin Zaremby, an attorney, former student of Hill’s and a longtime friend of the couple, recommended The Community Foundation. According to Dr. Thompson, “I was so grateful at that moment - which was so fraught when Charlie died - to be able to come up with a shorthand expression: The Charles Hill Fund for Liberal Education. It captured exactly what he devoted his life to.”

Establishing the fund would allow time to pass so friends and supporters could work together to determine how best to shape it and honor his life. “There was nothing more important to Charlie than reading, thinking, talking, re-reading,” Dr. Thompson says. “He didn’t consider it working all the time, though I might have put it in those terms. He was living and exulting in ideas.”

Donations to this Fund in Professor Hill's memory are welcomed.

Make a donation

Charles Hill Fund for Liberal Education