ALPINE In 1985, Sharon Hileman nearly canceled an interview because she thought Sul Ross State University and Alpine were too small. During the succeeding 33 years, she decided both entities were just the right size.
Hileman, dean of graduate studies and professor of English, will retire July 31. During her tenure, she has worked under five presidents, Jack Humphries, R. Vic Morgan, Ricardo Maestas, Quint Thurman and Bill Kibler.
After teaching at large campuses at Santa Barbara (CA) City College and El Paso Community College, Hileman and her late husband drove to Alpine for an interview in the Sul Ross English Department in 1985.
“We drove into town and I saw this small school in this small town. After teaching at colleges with 20,000-plus students, I thought this was not the place for me,” Hileman said. “We turned the car around and headed back toward El Paso. I intended to call and cancel the interview, but when we got to Marfa, my husband said, ‘This is not professional.’ That pushed my buttons.”
Hileman was interviewed – and offered the position – by Nelson Sager, then the department chair. He handed her a stack of books for the classes she would be teaching.
“I said that I needed at least 24 hours to think it over, but Nelson insisted that I take the books and look through them while I made up my mind,” she smiled.
Even after accepting, “I still planned to stay only one year, which has become a familiar story for many who have retired from Sul Ross,” said Hileman.
In addition to teaching English, Hileman’s university activities have been extensive. Prior to becoming Dean of Graduate Studies in 2015, she served as coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program (1997-2015); chair of the Department of Languages and Literature (1991-2015); budget director of the TIF Discovery Grant for Distance Learning (2001-03); project manager of the National Endowment for the Humanities grant (2000-01); director of the Title III Hispanic Serving Institution Program and grant (1998-2000); activity director, Title III, Improving Academic Programs (1995-98); and director of the Writing Lab (1986-1990).
In addition to teaching face-to-face classes, Hileman was involved with online education since its inception through the Title III grant in 1990. “That (online) has been exciting. It is a different kind of challenge, learning how to interact with students, and we are still trying to make advances in what we have to offer in the online environment.”
She has also been able to pursue her research interests in women’s studies and women in literature. “Most of my publications focus on some aspect of women’s writing.”
She praised her Sul Ross experience. “It has been fantastic for me. That is the advantage of a small school, you get to do so many things. There are different classes and different activities, and this is the same for the students. There are more opportunities to be involved in a wide spectrum of things you want to try out.”
As the daughter of a career U.S. Air Force officer, Hileman lived in many places, including dividing first grade in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Tripoli. She graduated from a military dependents’ high school in Seoul, South Korea, then moved to the West Coast. She received a B.A. (1969) and M.A. (1971) in English from San Jose (CA) State University, and a Ph.D. (1985) in English from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Prior to coming to Sul Ross, she was an instructor at Santa Barbara City College (1974-75) and El Paso Community College (1975-80).
She received the Outstanding Teaching Award in 2010 and three times has been selected as Sul Ross’ Piper Professor Nominee for Outstanding Teaching. Hileman was named to “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers” four times.
Retirement will find her moving to Santa Fe, N.M. with her husband, Robert Hunter. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening and traveling.