Hillman was the first on campus, leaving Strathclair in
"It was close to home," Hillman said. "I had never
really been away from home and it seemed like a logical progression."
He took science courses, finding his passion in geography
under his mentor, John Langton Tyman,
who established the department in 1962. Hillman also played football with
the Caps, who played at the former Kinsmen Stadium.
"I was a football nut but eventually something had
to give," Hillman said. "I couldn't do football as well as carry on with
my hectic music schedule."
Hillman played in four bands, including one with classmate
Barry Forman. They earned a daily gig performing during CKX-TV's noon show
with future BU lecturer Larry Clark on drums.
We were doing noon shows every day and it clashed with
the geography class with John Tyman, Hillman said. "He gave me his notes
and let me skip all the classes."
Hillman needed money so he returned to Strathclair
without a degree to teach high school, staying three years there on permit.
After he married Sue-On,
his wife of 52 years, Hillman resumed his education, earning an elementary
teaching degree. He carried on to earn Bachelor of Science and Bachelor
of Education of degrees, as well as a Silver medal in Geography in 1971.
He said he loved the educational dynamic at Brandon
There were a lot of bull sessions," Hillman said. "Profs
weren't afraid to speak out controversially . . . You could speak your
mind and have different topics. It was a great experience."
Hillman returned to Strathclair and taught for 30 years,
but continued his studies and received his master's from BU in 1991.
He joined the faculty in 2000, and after a decade there
in which he battled cancer and CIDP, a nervous system disorder, Hillman
retired at 65. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the BU Senate
at Convocation in 2013.
The Hillmans have a couple of claims to fame. They
co-owned and operated Soo's restaurant in Brandon until 2002 and the couple
also released 12 albums, first
as Western Union, and later under their names, touring across, Canada,
USA and Europe.
In one of their England recording sessions they were
joined by Alan Clark, who later earned a place in the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame as a member of Dire Straits, and the Hillmans were Entertainers
of the Year in Manitoba in 1980.
Sue-On is also a BU graduate, with a Bachelor of Arts
and a B.Ed. and taught English for Academic Purposes at the University
for 15 years. The couple have three children, China-Li, Robin and Ja-On,
all of whom attended Brandon University before going on to successful careers.
"The atmosphere is great and it's a nice, small compact
university compared to a lot of them, which are really sprawling," said
They now travel the world, and Bill works on web
sites, with more than 15,000 webpages online.