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Janet Hill Passes Away

A great loss for Grant and Calvin Hill but also felt by Duke fans everywhere.

2016 Kennedy Center Honors Formal Artist’s Dinner
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03: Former NFL running back Calvin Hill and his wife, Janet, arrive for the formal Artist’s Dinner honoring the recipients of the 39th Annual Kennedy Center Honors hosted by United States Secretary of State John F. Kerry at the U.S. Department of State on December 3, 2016 in Washington, D.C. The 2016 honorees are: Argentine pianist Martha Argerich; rock band the Eagles; screen and stage actor Al Pacino; gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples; and musician James Taylor.
Photo by Ron Sachs - Pool /Getty Images

For decades, Duke has been a family-oriented program and over the years, some parents have become minor Cameron celebrities: Bob Hurley, Doug Collins, Bonnie Laettner, the Scheyers and the Plumlees, all played big roles at Duke and were loved by Blue Devil fans.

But we’re not sure anyone was identified with the program in quite the way the Hills were.

In some ways, Grant Hill was born lucky. His father, Calvin, was an outstanding football player who graduated from Yale. And his mother, Janet?

Janet, who died Saturday, was something else.

She was, first and foremost, a brilliant and uncompromising woman whose toughness, at times, extended to Grant, even though he didn’t always appreciate it when he was young.

She was a stern woman, even a bit intimidating from a distance. We never met her but everyone we know who did found her delightful. She was highly intelligent, insightful and immensely capable.

The greatest public testimony to Janet Hill though is her son, Grant. He was a superb athlete and is a better man. If you ask Duke fans who most closely resembles the ideals we’d like to see in a Duke athlete, most would either say Shane Battier or Grant Hill.

After his devastating injury history changed the trajectory of his NBA career, Hill adapted and endured, and after he retired, like his mother, he became profoundly productive.

It took a lot of steel for him to overcome all that he did, but if you asked Hill, we suspect (and this is not to diminish his father’s contributions), he would credit his mother for much of his toughness.

Janet Hill was also a trustee at Duke some years ago and the university has lowered its flags in her honor.