By Jared Fields, Editor in Chief
Most everyone knows – or knew – the Hilton Room.
While the room is now gone, the name will remain in the area. The Hilton Food Court celebrated its official grand opening Thursday and will receive a plaque designating it so sometime in November or December.
“Since that whole area’s been known for years as the Hilton Room, we thought it would be fitting to name that the Hilton Food Court,” said Dr. Royce Money, president of the university.
For the popularity that area of the Campus Center enjoys, few know the behind-the-scenes man and his family for whom the room was named in 1991.
Bill Hilton enrolled at Abilene Christian College shortly after processing out of the army in January 1946. More than 60 years later, Hilton retired as vice president emeritus on May 31 after 57 years of service to ACU.
Hilton served as vice president emeritus for 15 years and previously served as the vice president for finance and administration for more than 20 years.
Hilton joined the business administration faculty in 1950 to teach and continue his education.
“I really came back to get some more courses in education. I needed education [classes] to continue to teach. I just never did leave then,” Hilton said. “I started working in the business office and teaching full time.”
Hilton did so until 1969 when he became ACU’s business manager for a year. In 1970 he became the vice president for finance.
More than 300 of Hilton’s friends and family gathered in honor of his decades of work on Aug. 25 in the Teague Center.
Money presented Hilton with a T-shirt he had made for the presentation that read: “I SURVIVED 4 ACU PRESIDENTS.”
President A.B. Morris hired Hilton in June 1950. Since then, Hilton worked under presidents John Stevens, Bill Teague and Royce Money.
Outside of ACU, Hilton served the city of Abilene and Hillcrest Church of Christ, which he helped start 47 years ago.
In Abilene, Hilton served as a member of the City Council, the
Board of Adjustors, the Planning and Zoning Commission, the
chairman of the Education Committee for the Abilene Chamber
of Commerce and was the Secretary/ Treasurer for the Abilene
Higher Education Authority.
“I was busy, but it was things I enjoyed too,” Hilton said.
Now he spends that time visiting doctors’ offices.
“When you get to my age you spend your time going to doctors,” Hilton said.
Hilton still remains active, working out for an hour three times a week at 6:30 a.m. in the exercise room at ACU.
Hilton and his wife, Alvah Jean, have four children, all of whom
went to ACU, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Money said he first met Hilton when he was a student in the
“I got to really know him well in the late 1980s; he was VP for
finance,” Money said.
When Money became president, Hilton told Money he looked forward to retirement but would continue serving in his role until he found a replacement. Money found a replacement,
Jack Rich, and said the transition went perfectly.
“I cannot say how smoothly that transition went,” Money said.
Money said Hilton was an “immaculate record keeper” and always looking out for what was best for ACU.
“He’s just one of the towering influences in the 101 year history of the university,” Money said. “He played a major role in shaping the university.”
In 1990, Hilton received the third Honorary Doctor of Christian Education degree from Amber University – the first went to Dr.. John Stevens.
“ACU-Dallas, they pulled off and became an independent school called Amber,” Hilton said.
Kevin Watson, associate vice president for administrative services at ACU, spoke at Hilton’s dinner as a colleague and friend.
Watson knew Hilton through church, and in 1982 Hilton needed to hire someone to run Abilene Educational Supply.
Watson ran that alone and then ran both the Campus Store and Abilene Educational Supply before leaving ACU for a year to get his stock-broker’s license.
Hilton called Watson again, this time to say the investment officer position had been vacated. Watson took the job, working
with off-campus projects and properties, and shared an office with Hilton for a few years.
“He’s an honorable person, very knowledgeable, highly respected in higher education throughout the country,” Watson said. “Just an amazing guy.”