All of the work to get young minds admitted into Eastern Mennonite University starts with Gwen Hill. She arranges the tours and helps keep the admissions office running smoothly and efficiently.
Gwen Hill is known for her compassion, which is a trait that she developed at an early stage in her life. She grew up in Baltimore, Md., where she and her family were very involved in the church community. Her faith grew as she aged by going to church frequently and reading God’s word. Church was where she found compassion and unconditional love from God and His children. Church was also where she met the love of her life. Hill and her husband got married not long after they first met. They then began their careers in the church.
The two ran a women’s home in Baltimore for women affected by prostitution, drug addictions, and domestic violence. Hill said, “Working with those girls gave me a new view of the world. These women were from such different backgrounds. Some women came to the home to escape domestic abuse. Some were teens forced into prostitution. Some started as teens who were abandoned by their families and had no other choice but to prostitute.
“Some women were drug addicts who had to use prostitution to fund their drug addiction. Some were women who became homeless due to solely funding their drug addiction. Some were women who became drug addicts to numb the pain from being forced into prostitution. I was these women’s mentor, mother, sister, friend, counselor, and whatever these women needed. They were learning from me and I was learning just as much from them.”
The women that came to the home were ones who had been beaten, raped, sold, etc. “It was truly amazing. The fact that these women had endured so much pain and still had the courage and the will to come up from that was incredible. After all that they had went through, they still wanted to find God,” remarked Hill
Hill was from a completely different background than these women, yet she treated them as equals and with respect. Hill reflects on an instance that brings her to tears to this day, “I remember when one of my girls came to me confessing that she was pregnant and wanted to get an abortion. I told her that God has a plan. He did not allow this child to be conceived to burden you. She… later on had the baby and gave it up for adoption. The baby was given to a couple which could not have a child of their own. I was overwhelmed with joy because through me, I was able to relay God’s love and compassion to save a life and bring other joy.”
After working at the women’s home, Hill worked at the Boys & Girls Club. She then saw that Skyline Middle School, here in Harrisonburg was hiring and got the job. Shortly after, she began working as a teacher’s assistant and was promoted to the principal’s secretary. Hill worked as the secretary until she saw an opportunity to work here at EMU. “I felt it would be an opportunity for me to expand my skills and grow in my career pursuits. I applied, interviewed and I was hired!” said Gwen about her journey to EMU.
“I met Gwen years ago because my dad is the VP of Admissions. I did not get to really know her compassion until the summer of 2013 when I started working with her personally as an intern in the admissions office. Her quality of living through God and strong advice from her own life experience are incredible. She is one of the most genuine people I have ever met,” said Sarina Hartman EMU senior, of Gwen.
Nora Osei, a new admissions counselor here at EMU is also a fan of Hill. “She is the bomb! It was kind of intimidating when I started working here and she helped me feel comfortable. She has almost become like a second mom to me. I actually sometimes call her ‘Mama Gwen’. Being greeted by her bright smile and getting to be around her warm nature everyday makes my work experience ten times much better.”
Hill’s hard work at Eastern Mennonite University and her past work are all outcomes of the grace of God. Her compassion continues through her everyday work to bring bright, young minds to Eastern Mennonite University.
Kaylin Richardson, Staff Writer