If you attended Caltech during the early 1960s—or were visiting from a nearby college—you may have met this alumnus at a Dabney mixer. If you didn’t socialize with Darbs, you may have played with him in the band, in which case you surely will remember how the director, John Deichman, secured a gig on Disneyland’s Main Street and scored each band member an entire book of E tickets. If you were among the 30 athletes or 200 fans who attended Caltech football games, you may have seen him perform with the band at the Rose Bowl.
Well prepared for Caltech, he found his classes challenging and his interactions with professors and peers stimulating. After receiving an undergraduate degree from Caltech in 1964, he earned a master’s degree from Stanford University. He was then assigned by the Air Force to a laboratory in Albuquerque, NM. “As I worked on radars, provided technical support on Air Force contracts, and guided other research activities, I realized how good my Caltech background was,” he says. After serving in the Air Force, he went back to school and earned a PhD. From there, starting with a stint at Bell Labs, he enjoyed a long and rewarding engineering career. Throughout it all, he remained grateful for his Caltech roots.
Together with Elizabeth (Sally) Erskine, Douglas (Doug) Hill (BS ’64) established a scholarship at Caltech in 2021. “The Elizabeth Hampton Erskine and Douglas W. Hill Scholarship was Sally’s good idea,” Doug says.
Doug and Sally first crossed paths in 1961, when she, at the time a student at USC, attended a Dabney get-together. Each went on to marry someone else, but over the decades they continued to see one another when Doug and his family were in the area to visit his parents. Eleven years ago, Doug and Sally reconnected and, as Doug describes it, “clicked right off the bat.”
Sally’s tie to Caltech predates Doug’s. She was eight years old when her father, a Caltech alumnus, brought her to campus for her first Friday night science lecture. “My father, my [late] husband, and Doug—all the key men in my life—went to Caltech,” Sally says. “What we talk about, think about, and value—the eternal quest for knowledge—all have been influenced by Caltech.”
Education has played a central role in Sally’s life. After receiving her master’s degree, she took a job with the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she enjoyed a 40-year career as a secondary school administrator and executive staff member for a local Los Angeles district.
Both Doug and Sally want to sustain Caltech’s need-blind admissions policy and make sure talented scholars have the resources they need to attend. So, in addition to including Caltech in their estate plans, Doug decided to provide immediate assistance to students by prefunding a portion of the scholarship through a qualified charitable distribution from an IRA. “Endowing a scholarship fund appeals to me,” he explains. “I like the fact that our support will continue in perpetuity.”