Furman Students writing on sticky notes at a table

Around The Lake

Where Ideas - and Leaders - Take Flight

The newly named Robert and Margaret Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship reflects the Hills’ enduring dedication to Furman.


By Jerry Salley ’90

John Quinn looking through binoculars

Robert ’83 and Margaret Platt Hill ’83

Robert Hill ’83 and Margaret Hill ’83 have shown their dedication to Furman in many ways through the years.

They served as chairs of the Richard Furman Society executive committee and members of the Because Furman Matters Campaign executive committee. The Hill Atrium and Hill Courtyard of the Trone Student Center are named in their honor, as is a biogeochemistry lab in the Townes Center for Science. They also support the Partners Scholarship Program and the Cothran Center for Vocational Reflection.

And now the Hills are supporting Furman’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship with an endowment fund. To recognize that commitment, the institute is now known as The Robert and Margaret Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The naming is fitting, says Anthony Herrera, Furman’s chief innovation officer and executive director of The Hill Institute, noting that the couple’s initial investment led to the institute’s founding.

“They were such a catalyst in getting the university to take the first step to launch this institute,” Herrera says. “They started the journey that brought me to campus to take this role on. Not only have they been supporters, they’ve been partners in building it step by step and brick by brick.”

The institute was launched in August 2018 with Herrera’s hiring. With the mission of developing leaders into entrepreneurially minded thinkers and doers, the institute has helped introduce the Furman Business Innovation Accelerator, the GVL Starts program, the Class E podcast and the Paladin Pitch competition.

These accomplishments and the success of The Hill Institute as a whole have their roots in The Furman Advantage, says Robert Hill, a retired executive and member of the Furman Board of Trustees.

“I think that really enables us to do some neat things as a university and invest in our student body appropriately,” he says. “That’s an important anchor – and I’m not sure we’d invest if we didn’t have a healthy strategy around The Furman Advantage and creating those experiences for students.”

The Hills’ endowment will allow the institute to continue its ongoing work and create more connections across campus, Herrera says.

“When you think about a domain that can connect chemistry and communication studies, or philosophy and business – that’s innovation and entrepreneurship,” he says. “That’s where the institute is so transformational. This will bring all the departments, all the disciplines, all of our divisions across campus together in a common ground. We’re just barely starting to scratch the surface.”

Herrera’s leadership, as well as that of Furman President Elizabeth Davis, is inspiring to the Hills, they say.

“When you’re making a gift to Furman, you’re investing behind people, too,” Robert Hill says.

As Furman alumni and parents – their son, Marshall Hill, graduated in 2012 – “Furman has been good to us through the years,” Hill says.

“A little bit of this is giving back to people who gave to us when we were students there,” he says. “We were impacted by great professors, and we made great friends at Furman, and that’s been uplifting, too. It’s an important time to give back.”


Jim Pitts ’60 helped guide the university during integration, the Vietnam War and the break from the Southern Baptist Convention.

The music major went from a church choir in Charleston to Furman to a recording studio in L.A.

$5 million gift from Chris ’78 and Andrea Borch will endow track and cross-country scholarships.