Robert L. Hilliard, Class of 1948, a World War II Purple Heart veteran, transferred to the University of Delaware from the City University of New York in 1942 to take advantage of the one-on-one faculty mentoring. 

Then, his studies took a hiatus as he served in World War II, during which he played a role in saving the lives of thousands of Holocaust survivors and earned a Purple Heart. Hilliard has shared his story about the Holocaust in both a PBS documentary called A Force for Freedom: The Robert Hilliard Story and in his memoir Surviving the Americans: The Continued Struggle of the Jews After Liberation.

Returning to UD in 1946, Hilliard took a course on script writing, which shifted his career aims from law to writing. He also participated in UD’s E-52 Student Theatre, which influenced his professional career in theatre and began a lifelong relationship and mentorship with Dr. Robert Kase. To date, he has published more than 40 books and written 25 plays. He had a successful career in theatre, radio and television and as a newspaper reporter and editor before becoming a communications professor. He was employed in public and private sectors full time until the age of 82 and has been active as a writer, playwright and journalist in the 14 years since. 

From 1964 to 1980, Hilliard served as chief of educational/public broadcasting at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C. He worked in Japan, Tanzania and the Soviet Union to develop educational television systems and new media laws.  

“He contributed to the policies and activities of the U.S. Department of State by serving as a consultant to and lecturer in many foreign counties, raising the positive profile of the United States and solidifying its economic and cultural relations with those countries,” said his wife Joanne Reece Hilliard.

At Emerson College, where Hilliard is professor emeritus, he introduced courses that became international focal points, serving as models for replication in higher education. Hilliard has given lectures and speeches at UD and has maintained professional and personal relationships with Delaware alumni and participates in regional alumni events. He also gives at the leadership level as a Delaware Diamonds Society donor.