“I can’t remember when I didn’t have faith in Jesus Christ, and I can’t remember when I didn’t want to pursue a Ph.D.,” says Elder George Richard Hill of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
That statement characterizes the new General Authority perfectly. Not only has Elder Hill spent his life in service to the Church, serving as bishop three times, as regional representative over three different areas, and as a counselor in two general MIA superintendencies, but he is also a pioneer in the field of fossil fuels. In 1946, George Hill earned his doctorate in chemistry from Cornell, serving as a branch president along the way. The same year, the University of Utah hired Dr. Hill to research fuel possibilities in Utah. In 1951, the school asked him to start the Department of Fuels Engineering. He says, “In order to organize the new department, I had to offer nine courses, none of which I had ever taken.” He met the challenge, though, and the department’s work soon gained a grant from the federal government.
From 1966 to 1972, Dr. Hill served as dean of the College of Mines and Mineral Industries at the university. Then he was appointed director of the Office of Coal Research, U.S. Department of the Interior, and moved to Washington, D.C. From there, he went to the Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, to direct its Fossil Fuel Department. In 1977, he returned to Salt Lake City to accept an endowed chair from the University of Utah, the Envirotech Professor of Chemical Engineering, which allowed him more freedom in teaching and research.
“For us teaching types, an endowed chair is like heaven,” he explains, smiling. Over the years, Dr. Hill has written more than one hundred articles for professional journals and received numerous awards, including the Henry H. Storch Award presented by the American Chemical Society and an honorary science degree from Brigham Young University.
Elder Hill was born 24 November 1921 in Ogden, Utah. “My parents set a solid foundation in church and education,” Elder Hill says. His parents, George Richard, Jr., and Elizabeth McKay Hill (sister to President David O. McKay), both served as deans of colleges at what is now Utah State University. His father was also general superintendent of the Sunday School. “My father has been a real motivator and role model for me,” Elder Hill continues. “Both of us received the Silver Buffalo and Silver Antelope awards from Scouting. One of his teachings that has had great impact on me is ‘There’s no limit to the amount of good a person can do if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.’”
Elder and Sister Hill are a family-centered couple. He met his wife, Melba Parker, at Brigham Young University, where he obtained his A.B. in chemistry. They married in his senior year. The couple have seven children and twenty-seven grandchildren.
Elder Hill, at sixty-five, likes to do things with his children. He’s helped to teach his children to ski, and about seven years ago, he and a son in Germany earned amateur radio licenses so they could communicate. One major family enterprise has been the refurbishing of the old McKay home in Huntsville in cooperation with the McKay family.
When asked about his reaction to his call as a General Authority, Elder Hill said, “I’m thrilled to be able to serve the Lord full-time. This year I arranged to retire from teaching to have more spare time. The call couldn’t have come at a better moment. Church service has been a delight for me. I think the hardest thing about the call, though, will be leaving the grandchildren for long periods. But we’ll just love them that much more.”