Dick Hill, happy warrior

It can be truly said of Dick Hill that he championed his beliefs to the very end. His final column in The Ellsworth American, in which he once again railed against energy policies grounded more in hope than reality, appeared in this newspaper the day after he died — July 14.

At the age of 97, the professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine was feisty, good humored and engaged. But more than that — and here’s where he stood apart from the crowd — he was informed.

Though long retired from his 46-year teaching career at the university, Dick was never content to quietly fade into his sunset years. For the past two decades, the opinions voiced in his frequent columns for The American have provoked thought — and some controversy —especially as they related to what has come to be known as “green” energy sources. Scarcely a month would pass without an email submission from Dick with the query, “will this fly?” Agree with him or not, here was an advocate of nuclear power who backed up his contentions with hard numbers. In assessing our energy needs, Dick didn’t appeal to the readers’ idealism or utopian visions. He appealed to logic. He spoke in terms of kilowatt hours and British thermal units. He had done the math. And he used facts and figures to figuratively stick the needle in those who blindly maintain that an array of solar panels and thousands of windmills stacked on the mountains of Maine and elsewhere will eliminate the ongoing need for the fossil fuels that continue to support the global economy.

UMaine President Susan Hunter called Dick “the quintessential public research university professor — an exceptional educator, extraordinary innovator and visionary and ultimate citizen of the world, determined to make society better for us all.” And U.S. Sen. Susan Collins hailed him as “an exceptional professor and a man of towering intellect.”

He was all of that and more, and we shall miss him.

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