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KU engineering alum and his wife provide generous gift for EcoHawks research center

May 15, 2013

As a University of Kansas freshman in mechanical engineering, Ronald Hill built a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus and demonstrated it (under water) at a KU engineering exhibition. Today, 60 years later, that project represents the type of innovative mindset that he and his wife want to advance at KU.

Ronald and Sue Hill, of Lee’s Summit, Mo., have made a generous gift to support the construction and equipping of the Hill Engineering Research and Development Center on KU’s west campus.

Sue and Ronald Hill

The center, which will be completed later this spring, will house KU EcoHawks, a student research program of the School of Engineering that focuses on developing innovative sustainable energy solutions for transportation and other areas of research.

“Sue and I are excited about the new KU Research and Development Center,” said Ron Hill. “We see the research and development center as an opportunity for mechanical engineering students to learn by doing with hands-on experience, turning ideas into sustainable products and services now and in future generations.”

Ronald Hill earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from KU in 1957. He is president of HEMCO, a firm he started with his father in 1958; Sue is the firm’s vice president of customer development. Located in Independence, Mo., HEMCO is a leading manufacturer of laboratory equipment and furniture, and serves medical, academic, life science, biotech and pharmaceutical markets around the globe.

At the 1954 KU Engineering Exposition, Ronald Hill demonstrates an aqua lung he designed and constructed.

Christopher Depcik, associate KU professor of mechanical engineering and director of EcoHawks, expressed appreciation for the Hills’ generosity.

“This gift provides a needed boost to the mechanical engineering department for the recruitment and retention of exemplary undergraduate and graduate students interested in the areas of sustainable energy and transportation,” said Depcik. “The novel integration of electrified vehicles and a building that has a possibility of attaining a LEED platinum rating will excite students through research projects, and they will leave KU better prepared to make a real difference in the world.”

The Hill Engineering Research and Development Center is located at 2105 Becker Drive on KU’s west campus. The 4,000-square-foot building was designed and built by KU architecture students in Studio 804, which is committed to the research and development of sustainable, affordable and inventive buildings.

Ronald and Sue Hill are longtime and generous supporters of KU and the School of Engineering.

This gift counts toward Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas, the university’s $1.2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign. Far Above seeks support to educate future leaders, advance medicine, accelerate discovery and drive economic growth to seize the opportunities of the future.

The campaign is managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment was the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

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May 15, 2013
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