HACKETTSTOWN, NJ (Warren County) – Louise M. Monez Hill never forgot the aunt who funded her college education during the Great Depression. Later in her life, Hill wanted to pay it forward to a new generation of students, designating a $2 million estate gift to establish a new endowed scholarship fund at Centenary University.
The Grace Y. Bissett and Louise Monez Hill Scholarship Fund will be named in honor of the donor and her aunt, Grace Bissett, a businesswoman who owned an upscale dress shop and provided the opportunity for Hill and her brother to attend college.
Hill, who passed away on Jan. 28, 2019, was a 1940 graduate of Centenary Junior College, a precursor of the current University. The diversity-based scholarship will support the education of students with financial need who intend to pursue a career in teaching, religion, social work, or a similar field, and who are devoted to improving racial relations.
The generous bequest comes at a time when the University is advancing a new strategic plan that outlines four imperatives, one of which centers on fostering an inclusive environment on campus and in the surrounding community. To that end, the University has appointed a Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging Task Force comprised of students, faculty, administrators, and alumni.
Centenary University President Bruce Murphy, Ed.D., said, “It is a wonderful gift that came at an opportune time. Louise’s bequest sets a strong foundation for one of the most important initiatives outlined in our strategic plan. Generations of students, as well as the entire campus community, will benefit from her generosity.”
Hill grew up in Warren County during the Great Depression. With money in the family tight, her aunt stepped up to pay college tuition for Hill and her brother, Thornton Monez. After earning an associate degree from Centenary, which was then a two-year women’s college, Hill embarked on a grueling schedule, rising at 4 a.m. to commute via train to work as a secretary at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. On weekends, she’d take the train east into New York City for classes at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, where she received a bachelor’s degree in 1948 and master’s in 1951. “Centenary gave Louise a sense of independence,” explained Rowena Monez, Hill’s niece, who is a Pennsylvania attorney. “It fostered the growth and maturity she needed to go on to Columbia University.”
Following her graduation from Columbia, she enjoyed a long career as a speech teacher at Roslyn High School on Long Island; her most well-known student was the late Michael Crichton, best-selling author of Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, and other novels. Retiring in 1976, Hill and her husband, Walter Hill, settled down to a pleasant life filled with travel, gardening, art, classical music, and were avid news enthusiasts. Louise also had another hobby—investing. “When it came to investing, Louise was self-taught,” recalled Monez, adding that Hill enjoyed reading The New York Times, Barrons, The Wall Street Journal, and Value Line. “She didn’t think of herself as all that good at it, but she did quite well on her teacher’s salary.”
Vice President for University Advancement Karen DiMaria noted that estate gifts provide the opportunity for donors like Hill to make a lasting impact on the lives of Centenary University students: “An estate gift leaves a legacy that truly makes a difference for many years to come. Louise’s generous bequest has the power to change the lives of promising students through a Centenary University degree.”