Hill, Bonnie Guiton 1941–
Bonnie Guiton Hill 1941–
From student secretary at Mills College in Oakland, California, to vice president of The Times Mirror Company and chief executive officer of The Times Mirror Foundation, Bonnie Guiton Hill has always focused on improving the welfare of minorities and the poor. She has made her professional mark working to improve conditions for staff and students of public schools and colleges and has supported the education of adults and the rights of consumers. She has been successful in an impressive array of jobs that have taken her from the halls of academia to the White House, from a cabinet position in the California state government to the seat of power in an influential publishing company.
Bonnie Guiton Hill was born Henrietta Brazelton in Springfield, Illinois, in 1941. Her family and friends called her Bunny, but this nickname quickly became the target of schoolyard taunting, compelling her to change her name to Bonnie. It was not until the late 1980s that she actually legalized this name.
Domestic difficulties colored Hill’s early childhood. Her father, Henry Frank Brazelton, left his young family when Hill was just an infant. Hill was thus raised by her mother, Zola Elizabeth Newman Brazelton, and her mother’s parents in her grandparents’ home. Hill’s mother, a domestic worker, relied on welfare and struggled with alcoholism until her death in 1985.
While Hill remembered frequent quarrels with her mother, she also recalled her mother’s encouragement, particularly when she was sober. In particular, Zora Brazelton insisted that her daughter receive a solid educational and religious foundation. When the Brazeltons moved to Oakland in 1954, Hill took an active part in Saint John Baptist Church, at one time even working in the church office. Standard high school offerings, however, seemed irrelevant to her; only vocational classes directly applicable to the work world she was about to enter caught her attention.
Hill graduated from McClymonds High School in Oakland in 1959 and in 1966 married Harvey Guiton Jr. During their 18 years of marriage, they had a son, Greg Anthony, born in 1968, who tragically lived only four days. Their daughter, Nichele Monique, was born the following year.
In 1971, when Hill was 30, her husband suffered a
Born Henrietta Brazelton October 30, 1941 in Spring field, IL; daughter of Henry Frank Brazelton and Zola Elizabeth Newman Brazelton. Married to Walter Hill, Jr., marketing executive; 3 daughters, 2 grandchildren. Education: B.A., psychology, Mills College, 1974; MA, educational psychology, California State University, Hayward, 1975; Ed.D., UC, Berkeley, 1985.
Career: Student secretary, asst. dean of students, lecturer, interim dir. of ethnic studies department, Mills Coll., Oakland, CA, 1971–76; executive director, Marcus A. Foster Educational Institute, Oakland, 1976–79; vp, general manager, real estate mgmt. and devt, Kaiser Center, Oakland, 1980–84; vice-chair, U.S. Postal Rate Commission, asst. secretary, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1984–89; special advisor, U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, asst. secretary, vocational and adult section, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1989–90; president, CEO, Earth Conservation Corps, Oakland, 1990–91; secretary, CA State Consumer Services Agency, 1991–92; dean, Mclntyre School of Commerce, Univ. of VA, 1992–96; vice-president, Times Mirror, president, CEO, Times Mirror Foundation, 1996–.
Selected awards: National Women’s Economic Alliance Foundation’s Directors Choice Award, 1992; YMCA’s Tribute to Women in International Industry Award; CANDACE Award, National Coalition of 100 Black Women; Outstanding Community Leader and Humanitarian Award, NAACP; Citation, Marcus Foster Educational Institute.
Memberships: Bd. of Dirs:Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., Louisiana-Pacific, Inc., Hershey Foods Corp., National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, Crestar Financial Corp., AK Steel Holding Corp., RREEF funds’ Real Estate Investment Trust, National Urban League, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, Ponoma College, LA Downtown Women’s Center, NASD Regulation, inc., Center for Excellence in Education; chair, Securities and Exchange Commission’s Consumer Affairs Advisory.
Addresses: Times Mirror, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053.
severe heart attack. His illness and the thought of losing him brought back painful memories of her own childhood in a single-parent, welfare family. Resolving never to find herself in a comparable position, Hill enrolled at Mills College in Oakland. While caring for her husband and her young daughter, Hill worked full-time as a secretary at Mills, earning $430 a month, and balanced class schedules at three colleges. In just two-and-a-half years, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Hill then finished her master’s degree in educational psychology at California State University at Hayward at the same rapid pace, completing her course work in just over ten months. At the same time, she advanced to the position of assistant dean of students at Mills. Ten years later, Hill completed her doctorate in higher education at the University of California at Berkeley. Her dissertation analyzed a successful partnership between private industry and business education. It is no wonder that her colleagues described her as an “inspirational whirlwind.”
From 1974 to 1976 Hill served first as assistant dean of student services at Mills and then as lecturer in and interim director of the ethnic studies department. In 1976 she moved on to become the first executive director of the Marcus A. Foster Educational Institute, an organization that provides motivational support and finances programs for staff and students in the Oakland public schools.
Hill remained with the Foster Institute until 1979, when she joined the Kaiser Center, a subsidiary of Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation, as vice-president and general manager for real estate management and development. Certainly, Hill’s performance warranted such a promotion, but she also benefited from the business climate at the time, which focused on increasing minority participation at the administrative level. Kaiser’s recruitment efforts, in fact, included assembling a team of managers to determine where her experiences and abilities would be of greatest value to the corporation, rather than simply relying on the standard human resources protocol. Hill remained with Kaiser until 1984.
Having served both in the nonprofit and private sectors, Hill’s career then took her to the public sector and the state and national governments. From 1984 to 1989 she served in the administration of President Ronald Reagan as vice-chair and commissioner of the United States Postal Rate Commission and as assistant secretary of the United States Department of Education. From April of 1989 until September of 1990 she was special advisor to President George Bush in the United States Office of Consumer Affairs, chair of the Consumer Affairs Council (an organization of federal agency consumer representatives), and assistant secretary in the vocational and adult section of the United States Department of Education. She is credited with launching the first national symposium on minority consumer issues and with addressing consumer concerns about the privacy and accuracy of computerized information. In 1989 she headed the United States delegation to the Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development’s committee on consumer policy and hosted the meeting to coordinate activities, discuss mutual concerns, and set policies and procedures for such issues as education, trade, and the protection of the environment among the 26 member nations.
While her career path may be broad and while she considers herself as a generalist, Hill’s undertakings reveal a clarity of focus: the needs of minorities and the poor. While at the Office of Consumer Affairs, for instance, she lobbied for wider dissemination of information about the rights of minorities and the poor as consumers and protections for them from fraudulent practices of manufacturers and merchants. Moreover, while the assistant secretary for vocational and adult education, she campaigned on the national level for vocational education classes for students who did not matriculate into higher education.
After leaving the federal government in September of 1990, Hill returned to the non-profit world as president and CEO of Earth Conservation Corps, a Washington-based organization working outside corporate boundaries to improve the environment. As Hill described to Donna Whittingham-Barnes of Black Enterprise,” Our goal is to preserve two of our greatest resources—the environment and our youth. Both are at risk.” Bringing her diverse experience to play, Hill met her challenge with concrete solutions: recruit 4,000 young people, ages 16 to 24, for six months to two years of national service; teach them how to plant trees and turn unused inner-city land into neighborhood gardens; then send them across the country where those skills are needed. Lacking federal money, Hill effectively solicited funding from environmentally-conscious corporations. Hill remained with the ECC until March of 1991.
In April of 1991 Governor Pete Wilson of California selected Hill to be secretary of the California State Consumer Services Agency, making her the first African American woman to serve in the cabinet of a California governor. In this capacity she headed 14 state departments with a $2 billion budget and more than 14,000 employees and handled duties ranging from managing the state’s property to overseeing the income tax collection procedures. During her tenure with the state, she concentrated her energies on fraud, privacy protection for consumers, and on revamping the beleaguered Department of General Services, one of the 11 departments in her agency. As with her previous experience at the federal level, Hill continued to work for consumer protections, this time lobbying for the prevention of credit report bureaus misuse of personal information. As always, she explained to Daniel Weintraub of the Los Angeles Times,” I was very serious about finding that balance between the needs of business and the needs of consumers.”
Impressed by her daughter’s experience at the University of Virginia and forever focused on the contributions she could make to America’s youth, Hill’s professional life took yet another turn when she accepted the position of Dean of the Mclntyre School of Commerce at the University of Virginia in June of 1992. Initially, she did not believe the woman from the executive search firm who recruited her for the position. While the university was looking for someone with a nontraditional background, Hill recalled, “I said to the woman who called me, ‘Have you seen me? Do you know who I am? I may be nontraditional in terms of my background—I’m also black.’” As she recounted to Karen Haywood of the Washington Post,” I didn’t think they would hire me.” She even urged university president John T. Casteen III to consider the effect that her hiring could have on the school’s fund raising efforts. Casteen convinced her that he wanted her for her qualifications and she took the job, remaining in the position until 1996. At the time of her hiring, she was one of only seven women deans of the nation’s 245 business graduate schools accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. During her tenure, her personal life also thrived; in June of 1993 she married Walter Hill, Jr., an executive who runs an advertising, promotions, and marketing business. Altogether, they have three children and two grandchildren.
In 1996 Hill changed careers once again, this time accepting the position of vice president of The Times Mirror Company and president and chief executive officer of The Times Mirror Foundation. Times Mirror, a news and information company, publishes the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, and other newspapers. In 1998 she was appointed senior vice president, community relations, for the Los Angeles Times. As head of the Times Mirror Foundation, she is responsible for promoting the company’s philanthropic initiatives, determining policy, and developing the foundation’s contribution programs. At the Los Angeles Times, moreover, she works to expand the role of The Times in the community. She oversees the newspaper’s extensive community relations and public affairs programs.
Hill is quick to point out that her “underlying motivation [has always been] my daughter.” As she told Jet, “I think we always want more for our children than we do for ourselves.” This drive propelled Hill to great heights and a myriad of achievements. Ultimately, she acts as a reassuring model for all young blacks to show that they do not have to start at the top in order to end up there. Her life story does not follow the often-assumed script: “that I went to private school, that we had money when I was growing up and that everything was right.” Consequently, she perceives herself as living proof that “as a result of much support from friends and family, you can take a little black girl out of the streets of Oakland and find that she can successfully move in diplomatic circles at all levels, including the White House.”
Black Enterprise, June 1991, pp. 275–80.
Ebony, January 1997, pp. 38–43.
Jet, June 1, 1987, p. 27; August 31, 1987, pp. 6–8; May 15, 1989, p. 4; July 6, 1992, p. 22; April 28, 1997, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times, February 9, 1991, p. A26; May 8, 1992, p. A11.
New York Times, June 7, 1992, p. 3:12.
PR Newswire, March 24, 1993; April 22, 1994
Wall Street Journal, February 4, 1991, p. A5.
Washington Post, October 5, 1992, p. WBIZ:21.
Guiton, Bonnie. Interview with Dona L. Irvin, March 15, 1993. Times Mirror Press Releases.
Additional information was taken from the AK Steel Web site at http://www.aksteel.com.
The Bush library site at http://www.csdl.tamu.edu/bushlib.
—Lisa S. Weitzman
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