Building on Carver’s Connection
Four words are inscribed on Walter Hill’s wedding ring: love, family, work, struggle.
“Those words are still what gets me up in the morning,” he says. “That, and a gratitude and thankfulness to the Creator.”
For three decades, Hill has brought love, family, work, struggle and gratitude to bear in his service to Tuskegee University as dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences, director of the George Washington Carver Agricultural Experiment Station and director of the 1890 Research and Extension Programs.
Ties between Tuskegee and Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences go back many years. Undergirding the partnership is the common link of George Washington Carver, Iowa State’s first African American student and faculty member, who went on to serve the people of Alabama for 47 years as a Tuskegee faculty scientist, educator and innovator.
Past ties included faculty exchanges and Tuskegee students spending summers in Ames conducting research as part of the college’s Carver internship program. “Iowa State was reaching out constantly, just a welcoming opportunity for growth on the part of our students and faculty,” Hill says.
In the past few years, the two universities have pledged to strengthen and broaden cooperative research, education and extension collaborations. Scientists are working together on creating new foods from purple hull peas, a Southern crop. Others are exploring Big Data applications for agriculture.
Also, Tuskegee and Iowa State are joining forces with Simpson College and other schools on activities to inspire young people as part of the Carver Birthplace Association in Missouri. “When I told Dean Wendy Wintersteen about the opportunity, she was like, ‘Let’s roll!’ Now that’s what you want in a partner,” Hill says.
Together they established the Carver Spirit of Innovation and Service Award, presented to worthy undergraduates on both campuses.
The Tuskegee-Iowa State relationship has many elements essential for a solid partnership, Hill says—shared work and responsibility, shared leadership and shared credit. “You actually manifest the words ‘mutually beneficial.’ When you do that, trust builds. That’s where I believe we are with Iowa State.”
This fall, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences honored Hill with the George Washington Carver Distinguished Service Award. When he accepted he likely drew on his mother’s advice.
“I’d always felt uncomfortable when people were giving me praise or honors. I asked her what I should say. She told me to just say ‘Praise the Lord.’ That’s my natural instinct now. Everyone’s got to find a way to speak to humility as you grow and achieve, and not become self- absorbed. When I see Carver’s face, I feel that. His humbleness was part of what made him great.”