Celebrating Kevin Hill’s legacy of love, laughter and clever jokes

By Melissa Burgess


Kevin A. Hill was known for his southern charm, sharp wit and keen sense of humor. He was also known as a brilliant scholar and a beloved educator.

An associate professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations, Hill unexpectedly passed away at 51 on May 29, 2017. He had been with the university for more than 24 years.

Faculty, staff and students from the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs and around the university recently joined Hill’s family and friends for a celebration of life in his honor.

“Kevin’s biggest legacy is the thousands of lives he touched and influenced in the generation of budding political scientists,” said John F. Stack, Jr., founding dean of the Green School.

Alumna Kathryn DePalo, now a senior lecturer in the department, said that Hill impacted her personal life and career.

DePalo met Hill in 2002 when he recruited her as his teaching assistant. He also mentored her during her doctoral program and dissertation at FIU.

“I owe my career to him,” said DePalo. “He taught me how to teach and he gave me confidence in myself that I never knew I had.”

In 1988, Hill graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Furman University in South Carolina and later earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Florida in 1993. That same year, he began teaching political science at FIU.

Throughout his career, Hill wrote numerous journal articles and published two books. He was also often sought out for his analysis on politics and voting trends by media outlets such as the Miami Herald, Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, Fox News, ABC and NBC. Most recently, he was WSVN’s on-air political analyst for the 2016 Trump-Clinton race.

“He was a genius,” said DePalo. “He was the go-to expert for the media. They knew he would provide the right quotable moment that explained politics in a way that made sense.”

Dario Moreno, an associate professor of political science, said Hill’s devotion to his students was inspiring.

“Kevin made a difference,” said Moreno. “His students loved him. And they loved him because he taught them well and he taught them with humor and grace.”

Hill’s humor was a favorite with many who knew him, including alumnus and colleague Harry Gould. Gould was Hill’s first teaching assistant and later became Hill’s “office neighbor” once Gould was hired as an associate professor at FIU.

“I’m going to miss laughing with Kevin,” Gould said. “He had the same juvenile sense of humor as I do. He and I could, and routinely did, have entire conversations made of nothing but Simpson and South Park quotes. Even when discussing serious political topics, he would always make us laugh.”

“Kevin was authentic, one of a kind and scary smart with a memorable personality,” Moreno said. “He stayed with us too short of a time. He will be missed.”

In memory of Hill, FIU’s Ignite campaign has created the Kevin A. Hill Scholarship Endowment. The scholarship will benefit graduate students in the Department of Political Science and International Relations.

To donate to the Kevin A. Hill Scholarship Endowment, click here.