Hill, Calvin and Janet
Calvin and Janet Hill
The husband-and-wife team of Calvin and Janet Hill has become a respected resource on “how to”—how to raise a family, how to create diversity in the workplace, and how to survive the pressures of being a professional athlete. Perhaps best known as the parents of NBA All-Star Grant Hill, the Hills are prominent corporate consultants whose overlapping interests and skills have sometimes led to their working together. In April of 1997, the Hills were both hired by the Dallas Cowboys to help rescue a football team embarrassed by criminal charges and drug suspensions. Independently, they serve as consultants to other leading corporations; Janet acts as vice president of a Washington D.C. consulting firm, while Calvin has become an independent consultant after working for many years as a vice president for the Baltimore Orioles.
Calvin Hill’s first career, however, was as a professional football player. With a degree from Yale University, he became the Dallas Cowboys’ number one draft pick in 1969. As a running back, he went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and played in four Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls. During his early career with Dallas, Calvin also considered becoming a minister and for three years he attended Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology while he played football. After six years as a Cowboy, Calvin played for one season in Hawaii in the short-lived World Football League. Next, he became a Washington Redskin in 1976 and, although he announced his retirement in 1977, returned to play three seasons for the Cleveland Browns.
Calvin’s 13-year stint as a professional athlete was followed by a job in the Browns’ front office. From 1987 to 1994, he was a vice president for the Baltimore Orioles. Calvin left the Orioles in order to pursue the possibility of bringing professional baseball back to Washington, D.C. with a group of like-minded investors. The group had made an unsuccessful bid to purchase the Washington Bullets and Capitols in 1994. In 1996 another effort was focused on purchasing the Astros, a deal that also fell through. Ultimately, Calvin wants to run and own part of a sports franchise. After having left the Orioles, he commented in the Washington Post, “I didn’t want to turn into somebody who’d just be there collecting his paycheck.… You’re out front, you’re visible, but you reach this glass ceiling.…Ownership has been on my mind for a long time. It’s a way to effect change and build something. You just have a lot more power to create as an owner.”
These achievements and aspirations were born of a can-do attitude that was passed from father to son. Calvin’s father was a sharecropper who moved north from South Carolina to become a construction worker. He wanted his son, who was born in Baltimore, to graduate from college. Calvin described the close relationship he had
At a Glance…
Born Calvin Hill, January 2, 1947, in Baltimore; son of Henry and Elizabeth Hill. Born Janet McDonald in 1947; married 1970; children: Grant Henry Hill. Education: Calvin graduated from Yale University, B.A., 1969; attended Southern Methodist Univ., Perkins School of Theology, 1969-71. Janet graduated from Wellesley College, B.A. (mathematics), 1969; M.A. (math education), Univ. of Chicago, 1972.
Career: Calvin played professional football as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, 1969-74; Hawaiians (World Football League), 1975; Washington Redskins, 1976-78; Cleveland Browns, 1978-81; worked in Browns front office until 1987; vp for Baltimore Orioles, 1987-94; independent consultant, 1994-;. Janet worked as a teacher and scientist before serving as special asst. to the Secretary of the Army, 1978-81; founded corp. consulting firm Alexander and Assoc., 1981.
Awards: Calvin’s honors include the Pro Bowl NFL All-Star Came, 1969, 1972, 1973-74; NFL Rookie of the Year, 1969; Sporting News NFL Eastern Conf. All-Star Team, 1969; All NFL Team (Pro Football Writers of America), 1969, 1973; 1000 Yard Club, 1972; Sporting News NFC All-Star, 1973; Maryland Hall of Fame.
Memberships: Calvin’s include: Yale Club of Washington, DC; exec, board, Yale Devt. Bd; Yale Univ. Council, 1982-86; bd mem, NCAA Found.; President’s Council on Physical Fitness; adv. bd, Rand Corp. Drug Policy Research Ctr. Janet’s include: bd mem, Wellesley Coll Center for Research on Women; Wellesley Business Leadership Council; former pres, Wellesley Coll. Alumnae Assn.; bd mem, Wendy’s Intl.; bd mem, NY Cotton Exchange; board mem, McDonald Dental Lab.; bd mem, Fuqua School of Business at Duke Univ.
Addresses: Home —Great Falls, VA. Office —Alexander and Associates, 400 C Street N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002.
with his father in the Washingtonian: “I was very fortunate to have a father who was like clockwork. He came home every day and wanted to hear about my day. He was there for me when I didn’t do well in Little League, taking me out in the back yard to practice. He was there when I went to prep school, to college, even to the Cowboys. When he died—I was 34—I felt like I’d lost my biggest supporter.”
Janet Hill is a vice president at Alexander & Associates, a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm that she co-founded in 1981. Her partner is Clifford Alexander, who she worked for as special assistant and White House liaison when he was secretary of the Army from 1978 to 1981. Among its clients, the firm numbers Major League Baseball, IBM, ABC News, the Ford Foundation, and the U.S. General Accounting Office. In addition to other services, Janet helped her clients establish an “inclusive” work force, that is, one including women and minorities. She sought to teach corporations how to hire qualified women and minority employees without relying on quotas, affirmative action, or sensitivity training. Importantly, Janet talked about inclusiveness because she considers the concept of “diversity” to be divisive. Moreover, her goal is to show businesses that a white male work force is not in their best interest financially. She explained in the Detroit News, “I don’t have a moral message with this; I’m only talking with a business, pragmatic message.…there [is] no reason one would want to recruit only white males, for example.… You’re not going to get the very best people. To get them, you have to canvass the universe. All the employers I know are in competitive businesses. They want the very best people.”
Corporate consulting is also a career change for Janet, who first worked as a teacher after college. A graduate of Wellesley College, where she was a suite-mate of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, she earned a B.A. in mathematics in 1969. She also received a masters degree in math education from the University of Chicago. She has worked as a teacher at the high school, junior college, and college levels, and was a scientist at a private consulting firm.
Both of the Hills have extended their influence as members of corporate and university boards. Janet’s appointments include the boards of Wendy’s International, The New York Cotton Exchange, and McDonald Dental Laboratory; she also sits on the board of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. Calvin serves on the boards of the NCAA Foundation, the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, and the Rand Corporation Drug Policy Institute. Both of the Hills are actively involved with several boards and organizations serving the institutions from which they graduated.
Having worked together previously, the Hills were hired by the Dallas Cowboys in 1997 to improve the team’s player-development programs. Several players had recently been involved in ugly incidents off the field that resulted in drug suspensions and a rape allegation. It was the Hills’ job to create a support system that would try to teach players how to keep their personal lives safer and saner. They created a number of programs including family assistance, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, and career counseling. Calvin was enthusiastic about the Cowboys’ future a year later, when he spoke to The Hartford Courant: “When I went to Dallas, I was expecting a team full of characters.…what I found was a team of character. People tend to let a couple of incidents color the perception.…Fame is a microscope, and with the Cowboys, it’s an electron microscope.”
The Cowboys clearly are not alone in their need to assist players who are dealing poorly with fame and fortune. The Hills’ work with the NFL team is part of a larger trend towards support programs in college and professional sports. When Calvin met with a group of All-American college football players in 1998, he hoped to give them some warning of the overwhelming pressures they would face as professional athletes. “I wish I could tell each guy here to put all the money away for a couple of years until they figure out what to do with it,” he said in the Hartford Courant: “The problem is, these young men are socialized a certain way … and then they are given more money than they ever could have envisioned. They get all that money and fame too quickly, before they know how to handle it,” he continued. The personal problems professional athletes face are well known to the Hills, not only because of Calvin’s experiences in the NFL, but because of their son Grant’s career in the NBA. Speaking of Grant’s entry into professional basketball in the Dallas Morning News, Calvin remembered, “We were scared to death … because we know what’s out there.”
Many sports fans think the Hills’ defining role is being the parents of NBA All-Star Grant Hill. The Hills would probably agree with this notion, given their ideas on child-rearing. The Hills, particularly Janet, often speak publicly about their relationship with Grant—their only child—and about how proud they are of him. During such discussions, Janet and Calvin Hill’s distinctly different personalities become apparent. Sitting with the Hills at one of Grant’s first games as Detroit Piston, Sporting News reporter Michael P. Geffner saw a fascinating side-by-side comparison of an almost grimly intense Calvin and a smiling and hollering Janet. Geffner described the father’s ritualistic approach to watching his son play: “His eyes will never leave the court, and he’ll talk to no one, breaking that silence only rarely to lean sideways and mutter one-line critiques to no one in particular.” Meanwhile, Janet commented, “It’s like he’s out there playing along with Grant.…and it’s a long draining season. I have faith in Grant making it through OK, but Calvin I wonder about.”
In subsequent years in the NBA, Grant Hill has become known as the league’s “Mr. Nice Guy.” Fans have been curious to know about the family background of this star player and Janet has often detailed their approaches to parenting. Because of her commitment to spending as much time as possible with Grant as he grew up, she came home from work to make dinner every night; “… [F]or 18 years his father and I never went anywhere,” she remembered in Jet. She also believes in spanking, and because of her strict system of rules and punishments earned the nickname “The General” from Grant. And in a family where sports was very important, school was always the first priority. She is very proud that Grant earned a B.A. in history from Duke University and reflected in the Detroit News, “We think our educations have served us every day for the last 26 years since we’ve been out of college, and that’s part of the drumbeat we have given Grant.”
The Hills have encouraged Grant to take an active role in his business relationships with the Pistons and the companies for which he does product endorsements. Not surprisingly, Janet and Calvin are full of opinions and ideas when it comes to Grant and his career, and in their professional capacities have a wealth of experience to share. In 1997 all three of the Hills were named by Fortune as among the most influential black business people. But as Janet commented in The New York Times, “We’re trying very hard to stay in our roles as parents. Not coach, not agent, not general manager. Parents.” Similarly, Calvin put aside the importance of wealth and accomplishment when he commented in the Washingtonian, “Simple things are the most important. I’ve achieved some success in school, my profession. But I’m proudest of raising my son to be a good person.”
Dallas Morning News, July 20, 1997, p. 1A.
Detroit News, December 3, 1995.
Fortune, August 4, 1997, p. 72.
Hartford Courant, February 14, 1998, p. C1.
Jet, May 12, 1997, p. 50; March 9, 1998, p. 51.
New York Times, December 23, 1994, p. B9.
PR Newswire, May 16, 1994.
Sporting News, January 16, 1995, p. 24.
Washingtonian, April 1997, p. 33.
Washington Post, March 30, 1994, p. F5.
—Paula Pyzik Scott
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