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Hill, Kent Richmond | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Hill, Kent Richmond


Historical Note:

Kent R. Hill, Ph.D. is Vice President for Character Development at the John Templeton Foundation. He is responsible for creating large-scale programmatic initiatives that engage fundamental questions regarding the nature, development, and benefits of the virtues and character strengths. These questions emerge from Sir John Templeton's passion for his Foundation to be a philanthropic catalyst for helping all of humanity to practice the virtues of love, honesty, generosity, gratitude, forgiveness, reliability, entrepreneurship, diligence, thrift, joy, future-mindedness, beneficial purpose, creativity, curiosity, humility, and awe.

Before joining the Foundation in early 2009, Dr. Hill served for seven and a half years in two Senate-confirmed senior administrative positions at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Washington D.C. As Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Global Health, he was responsible for international health programs which in 2008 totaled $2.6 billion. As Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, he administered economic, democratic, and social transition assistance in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe with annual budgets averaging $1 billion. A particular focus of Dr. Hill's development leadership at USAID focused on nurturing the values necessary for democracy, free markets, and human health to take root and grow. He was USAID's senior interagency liaison for matters involving Trafficking in Persons.

Dr. Hill's previous career includes nine years as president of Eastern Nazarene College (Quincy, MA), six years as president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (Washington, D.C.), and six years as a tenured history faculty member at Seattle Pacific University. An authority on religion in communist countries, he is the author of The Soviet Union on the Brink (1991) and has written and spoken widely on many topics, including democracy, human rights, religious freedom, Marxism, conflict resolution, G.K. Chesterton, John Henry Newman, church/state relations, education, interreligious dialogue, and international development assistance.

Dr. Hill received his B.A. in history from Northwest Nazarene College and an M.A. in Russian studies from the University of Washington (Seattle), where he also received his Ph.D. in history, with specialties in European intellectual history, Russian history, and East European history. He served in the United States Army as a Russian translator.

He is married to Janice, a reading specialist, and they have two adult children and one grandchild. He loves to travel, read theology and church history, hike, and play tennis. 

In 1978 seven Siberian Pentecostals crashed past Soviet guards and into the United States embassy seeking help in emigrating from the Soviet Union because of religious persecution.   Pyotr Vashchenko, Augustina, and their three daughters, Lidiya, Lyubov and Liliya along with fellow believers Mariya Chmykhalov and her son Timofei had traveled 2,000 miles by rail from the Siberian town of Cherno-gorsk.

Starting in 1961, Siberian officials began harsh anti-Christian campaigns and routinely disrupted Christian worship services and jailed many Pentecostal leaders. The Vashchenko children faced  harassment at school—ridicule, ostracism and beatings. The following year the Vashchenkos decided to educate them at home, but the state ruled them unfit and removed their daughters from the home and placed them in state homes until they turned 16. In January 1963, while Pyotr was in prison, Augustina and fellow Pentecostals made international headlines for forcing their way into the U.S. embassy seeking asylum. When they were promised better treatment they left. However, the Vashchenko’s home was confiscated, their jobs were lost and they were imprisoned.

Known to the outside world as “the Siberian Seven,” they have lived as uninvited guests in a grubby 12-ft. by 20-ft. room in the basement of the U.S. embassy on Moscow's bustling Tchaikovsky Street. They shared two beds and earned small change around the embassy washing cars, knitting garments, cleaning rooms.

Inspired by Soviet Dissident Andrei Sakharov, after three and a half years in the embassy basement Augustina and Lidiya Vashchenko began a hunger strike—stopping their eating in a desperate bid to win world attention and shame the Soviets into relenting. Their health failed quickly. Their plan worked as the severity of their situation gained international attention and the hunger strike became life-threatening. Pyotr Vashchenko was opposed to their tactics because of his understanding of the Christian teaching against suicide.

While in the embassy, the group completed a 225,000-word account of their heart-rending saga, reworked by John Pollock as The Siberian Seven. Their experiences reveal the sufferings that Christians behind the Iron Curtain had been compelled to bear. It has been noted that the case of the Siberian Seven is a good example of the gravity of the human rights situation inside the Soviet Union.

According to an account by Kent Hill, he and his wife were living in Moscow as Kent was a Fulbright schola doing PhD research when they became acquainted with the Siberian Seven holed up in the U.S. Embassy. He ended up translating materials that they had brought with them to the embassy which documented the persecution of unregistered believers. This began a long saga that took five years to resolve before the Soviets gave them permission to emigrate. As for Kent, it was personally important because it initiated him into the plight of Christians in general under communism and was a life-changing event to meet them.







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