Evelyn F. Hill, 95, pioneer in psychology for women

September 17, 2006|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

Evelyn Foster Hill, a pioneering clinical psychologist who didn't begin practicing until her mid-50s, died Wednesday at the Brighton Gardens of Towson assisted-living facility, three months after suffering a stroke. She was 95.

After twice putting family obligations before professional aspirations -- first to help out her parents in the Bronx, N.Y., during the Depression and then to raise children in Baltimore -- she enrolled at Goucher College in 1956 at age 45.

Eight years later, she had a doctorate in psychology from the Catholic University of America in Washington.

By the time she stopped seeing patients at her Towson office in the mid-1990s, Dr. Hill had helped break ground for women and clinical psychologists, her colleagues said, by advocating for the representation of private clinicians in the American Psychological Association and serving as a counselor to subsequent generations of female practitioners.

"She was a tremendous mentor and role model for women as we emerged into leadership in psychology," said Gayle O'Callaghan, a past president of the Maryland Psychological Association.

Among Dr. Hill's proudest accomplishments, she wrote at the age of 93 in an unpublished autobiography, was being the first woman to receive the Distinguished Psychologist of the Year award from the private practice division of the American Psychological Association, in 1985.

Three years later, she was the first woman to chair that division.

An area resident since the late 1940s, Dr. Hill served several terms on the state licensing board for psychologists, including a stint as chairwoman from 1976 to 1979.

An advocate for the Holtzman inkblot test -- a diagnostic alternative to the more commonly known Rorschach test -- Dr. Hill published a clinical handbook in 1972 for the test, which was published in several languages, said daughter Susan Hill Fishbein, also a clinical psychologist in Towson.

Though she received many honors throughout her career, Dr. Hill was most gratified by helping patients, said another daughter, Jane Hill Stokes of Towson.

"I think she really changed their lives," said Ms. Stokes. "She was extremely proud of the work she did, and she kept up her independent practice until she was 80 just because people needed her."

Dr. Hill was an avid golfer who played well into her 80s at the Country Club of Maryland, where she was a member. Dr. Fishbein described her mother as an enthusiast of duplicate bridge, which she played competitively at the Dulaney Valley Women's Club.

Dr. Hill was born in Boston on Oct. 10, 1910, to Jacob and Fannie Foster, both Lithuanian immigrants.

"She took great delight in that 10/10/10," said Dr. Fishbein. "The lore was that she was also born at 10 in the morning or some such thing."

When she was in the seventh grade, Dr. Hill's family moved to New York City when her father's hat-making business relocated. She enrolled at Hunter College after high school but soon dropped out to work at the New York Telephone Co. and help support her parents.

When her first marriage to Herbert Cooper ended in divorce, Dr. Hill joined the work force again. It was at International Telephone and Telegraph that she met and married her boss, Kenneth Hill.

They moved to Baltimore in 1948, where he set up the Hill Stapler Co., an industrial fastener distributor. Mr. Hill died in 1982.

A memorial service will be held Oct. 7 at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore.

In addition to her two daughters, Dr. Hill is survived by a 100-year-old sister, Esther Stern of Naples, Fla.; a son, Joseph Daniel Cooper of Mission Viejo, Calif.; a stepdaughter, Barbara Stewart of Media, Pa.; a stepson, Kenneth Burton Hill of Redlands, Calif.; and 12 grandchildren.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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