NEW ROCHELLE, NY – The Iona College community welcomes men’s basketball alumnus, Stanley Hill ’59 ‘95H, to campus this weekend. In addition to speaking engagements with student leaders, Hill will be honored with the first ever “Trailblazer Award” by the athletics department at halftime of the men’s basketball game vs. Fairfield University this Friday night (Feb. 24).
In the winter of 1956-57, during Hill’s sophomore season as a guard for the Gaels, his team found itself on the front-lines in the battle for racial equality. The Gaels were scheduled to meet the University of Mississippi in the All-American City Tournament in Owensboro, KY.
Realizing the Iona team had been racially integrated, Ole Miss coach, Bonnie Graham, informed tournament officials that his team would not compete if Hill was in the lineup. Coach Graham had the support of the university president, athletic director and the Governor of Mississippi. Iona’s head coach at the time, Jim McDermott, refused to bench his starting guard and tournament officials awarded a forfeit in favor of the Gaels. That night, Ole Miss basketball players sought out Hill at the Gaels’ hotel to apologize for the university’s actions, and in 2001, the University of Mississippi officially apologized for the bigotry Hill had endured forty-four years prior.
During the halftime ceremony, Iona will recognize Hill for his instrumental role in helping to bring civil liberties and social awareness to the forefront of American culture. His exemplary valor in the face of adversity stands as a beacon of courage and resolve for future generations to come. With the recognition of Hill on Friday, Iona remembers the founding Christian Brothers who fostered racial equality on the Iona campus, Jim McDermott, the white coach who asserted the equality of his black player, and especially Stanley Hill, who courageously endured discrimination and persevered to build a significant career as a New York labor leader, a champion of equal rights for all workers.
In addition to Hill more than a dozen players from all eras of Iona men's basketball history will be present to take part in the ceremony.
Hill arrives on campus Friday afternoon and prior to the game at 9:00 pm, he will address Iona’s Goal Club at its pregame reception. At halftime, Hill will be introduced to the Hynes Athletics Center crowd and will be presented with the Iona Athletics Trailblazer Award. On Saturday, he will attend a student leadership conference organized by the Iona College Office of Student Development.
Iona College would like to thank the dedication of director of mission integration, Regina Plunkett-Dowling, PhD; assistant director of student development and diversity committee chair, Leo Pedraza; 2012 ICANN editor and heritage committee member, Erika Enlund ’13; director of athletics, Eugene Marshall; and heritage committee member, Anthony Mastantuoni, for making this recognition possible.