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Beatrice H. Hill

1914 - 1993

Inducted October 1999

 "All people need some recreation, and all patients are people. Hence, all patients need recreation to some degree."
~Beatrice H. Hill

While visiting a relative receiving treatment for tuberculosis in 1940, Beatrice Hill observed the lack of recreation activities and services available to hospitalized patients. Recognizing this void in their treatment, the effects of excessive boredom, and the lack of stimulation, she volunteered to serve as consultant for recreation rehabilitation services in the Institute of Hospital Medicine of the Goldwater Memorial Hospital in New York City. Shortly thereafter, she met Dr. Howard Rusk, director of the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and together they worked to establish recreation programs throughout all of New York City’s municipal hospitals.

In 1953 Hill was employed by the National Recreation Association(NRA) to direct its consulting service for the emerging fi eld of hospital recreation. This service was later renamed the NRA Consulting Service on Recreation for the Ill and Handicapped. Over the years, the NRA’s interest in this area was only marginal. However, one of the first committees created by the Playground Association of America in 1907 focused on play in institutions. Despite this early interest, it was not until 1953, with the employment of Hill, that the NRA assumed a major role in promoting recreation services for the ill and handicapped. This new service provided advice and consultation to individuals and organizations including hospitals, nursing homes, special agencies, and community groups on services for the handicapped. In addition to organizing training workshops and carrying out survey research, the consulting service answered over 200 inquiries each month.

In the eight years Hill served on the NRA staff, there was a phenomenal increase in the recognition and acceptance of the concept of recreation as a major force in the rehabilitation of the ill and handicapped. Likewise, there was a corresponding increase in the demands on the NRA for consulting services on recreation for the ill and handicapped.

Hill produced the first educational film on the therapeutic value of recreation for patients in non-government hospitals. The film, entitled “So Much for So Little,” was financed by a grant from the Hofheimer Foundation. It shows, in dramatic form, how a volunteer worker discovers that recreation in a general civilian hospital contributes to a better patient morale. One of the highlights of the film is an appeal made by Howard A. Rusk, M.D., director of the Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Associate Editor of The New York Times, for more community and professional interest in this new field.

Beatrice Hill was also the author of one of the first publications on hospital recreation. Starting a Recreation Program in a Civilian Hospital was designed to help the neophyte in a civilian hospital to understand and plan effectively for hospital recreation.

A flyer for one of Hill’s programs to promote recreation in hospitals and care facilities.
Recreation, January 1954

She edited a monthly column in Recreation magazine entitled “Hospital Recreation” and later renamed “Rx for the Ill and Handicapped.” This column carried news on interesting developments in programs, research, and personnel concerned with recreation for the ill and handicapped.

Hill was awarded an honorary master’s degree from Springfield College in 1958 in recognition of her pioneering and outstanding work in creating recreation opportunities for the ill and handicapped.

With support from the Avalon Foundation and a grant from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Hill established Comeback, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to “promote through recreation the social rehabilitation of the aged, ill, and handicapped.” Its impact was significant by providing the first scholarship program for university training in therapeutic recreation and influencing the development of standards for personnel and registration of therapeutic recreation specialists. Largely as a result of her success and the realization on the part of the federal government that it should include recreation services as part of its matrix of human service programs, the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation in 1963 began awarding scholarships and financial support for faculty positions in a select number of universities offering graduate work in therapeutic recreation. Four years later, Comeback, Inc., was dissolved, its work complete.

Beatrice Hill’s life was one of dedication. Like so many pioneers, she was not professionally trained in the field she influenced, but because of her energy and vision the field prospered. She demonstrated the value of a consulting service, promoted the need for professional standards, and influenced the federal government to accept therapeutic recreation as an allied health profession. As important as these actions were, perhaps her most significant accomplishment was the promotion and recognition of the concept that the community is the natural setting for recreation programs to serve those with disabilities, that it can help in reintegration, and that recreation programs should be accessible to all citizens. Because of this advocacy, millions are the beneficiaries of her vision and effort.

Adapted from: Hartsoe, C, Sanders, D & Bridges, M (eds) (2009), Profiles in Leadership: Robert W. Crawford Recreation and Park Hall of Fame. National Recreation and Park Association and American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration.

  • Avedon, Elliott M. (1974) Therapeutic recreation service. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.
  • Hill, B. (1953-1961). “Hospital Capsules,” Recreation. National Recreation Association.

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