Giving for Future Generations

May 19, 2021

Love of Family, Teaching Inspires Gift

By Lauren Knapp
Undated black and white group photo including Phyllis Hiller in front of Elmwood Elementary School.
Phyllis Hiller (front row, second from left in white dress), shortly after she started her first teaching position at Elmwood Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Anne Hiller.

When Anne and Steve Hiller, sibling Spartan graduates, were considering a way to honor their mother, supporting teachers came first to mind. 

Their mother—Phyllis Golus Hiller (1929-2020)—was a teacher for 26 years. A first-generation college graduate, Phyllis was hired as a kindergarten teacher at Elmwood Elementary School in St. Clair Shores, Mich. in 1951 and spent much of her career teaching fourth grade, her favorite, in Ann Arbor Public Schools. She loved being with people, and loved teaching people; Phyllis remained in touch with colleagues and former students even after her retirement. 

One former student wrote on an online obituary: “[She] made me like going to school … and made you feel like you were very important.”

That, according to the siblings, was the definition of their mother. 

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Following Phyllis’s passing in October 2020, the siblings wanted to create a scholarship in her memory to support people who have the same passions and aspirations as their mother, who want to become teachers and to make an impact in the lives of their students. Having both graduated from Michigan State University—Anne in 1978 (Business) and Steve in 1980 (Economics)—making a contribution to the MSU College of Education, long-ranked No. 1 in the nation for elementary and secondary education, was an obvious choice. 

Ann Hiller speaking with students at a conference table during a Venture Capital and Private Equity class.
Anne Hiller speaks with students in a Venture Capital and Private Equity class (pre-2020).
Photo courtesy of Professor Zsuzsanna Fluck, Broad College of Business.

“Education is steeped into our family history,” said Steve, whose wife and mother-in-law were also public school teachers, and whose father-in-law was a public school superintendent. The siblings’ paternal grandmother also was a teacher in Ann Arbor’s schools. “It’s a difficult career path; a lot is expected of teachers. If we, through this scholarship, can help an aspiring teacher and reduce their financial burdens as they head out into the world, it will have been worth it.” 

The Phyllis G. Hiller Endowed Scholarship for Elementary Education, which will support an aspiring elementary teacher in the MSU College of Education, was established in March 2021. 

Steve Hiller speaking at a microphone.
Steve Hiller, photo courtesy of Ann Arbor Kiwanis Foundation

Like his sister before him, MSU was the only college Steve ever applied to. It felt like the “place [he] was meant to be.” After earning his degree at Wayne State University Law School, he started his law career in private practice before joining the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office, where he served in various capacities for 34 years, retiring as the county’s chief assistant prosecutor in December 2020. 

Anne’s career has been more varied, focused on business strategy and development in technology-based startups, including at NeXT Computer (a Steve Jobs start-up later acquired by Apple) and Tandem Computers.

Anne has continued her connection to MSU over the years—serving on the Broad College of Business advisory board for six years and on the advisory board for the Center for Venture Capital, Private Equity and Entrepreneurial Finance, where she has also been a guest lecturer. 

Phyllis and their father, Jim, taught them the importance of supporting others, giving back and solving problems. Whether it be through helping maintain law and order, or supporting businesses as they grow, preparedness for all those careers begins with guidance from a teacher, with those who have come before. 

“We’re all where we’re at today because generations that came before us sacrificed and invested for current and future generations” Anne said. “We’re at a pivotal point in the direction of our country and world. It feels like now is the time to make a difference.”


If you are interested in discussing an endowment or planned gift to support students in the College of Education, contact Senior Director of Development Eric Sturdy, Jr. at (517) 432-1983 or