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Michael Donald Hills, 1930-2014

1 March 1941 – 1 May 2013

Michael Hills

It was with great sadness that the international epilepsy world heard of the unexpected death of Dr. Michael Donald Hills, known to us all as Mike Hills. It is not easy to write about Mike at this point in time. Much has been said already by many people, in many ways. This obituary echoes their words.

Mike was an Honorary Fellow of the Department of Psychology at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.  Born and educated in Wellington, New Zealand, he obtained his PhD in 1973 from the Australian National University, Canberra, after a study of intergenerational values disparity in migrant families.  His interest in researching and teaching in the disability field for over the past forty  years originated in his own experience of epilepsy throughout adulthood.

He had been on the IBE Executive Committee for 12 years, serving two terms as Secretary General and a further term as Vice President.

Mike made a significant contribution to the objectives of IBE and ILAE. In his role as Secretary General of IBE he understood the constitution and the rules of good governance and could be relied upon to interpret the constitution with insightful observations when some hard decisions were being considered. Without fail, he gave his views with eagerness and enthusiasm. His dedication to every task presented to him was carried out diligently. He was always willing to pitch in with a smile, and was often the source of wise insights and advice.

After stepping down from the IBE Executive Committee, Mike continued to support IBE as a member of the Task Force that took on the monumental task of drafting IBE’s current Constitution. The introduction of the new Constitution marked a watershed in IBE’s existence – introducing seven regional structures and, more importantly, the first fully elected executive committee. In more recent years, since IBE’s first democratic elections in 2005, Mike has been a member of the Election Task Force, first as its Chair and, more recently, as a Member.

At the time of his death Mike was a Board Member of Epilepsy New Zealand; Executive Committee Member of the New Zealand League Against Epilepsy; a member of the Elections Task Force for the International Bureau for Epilepsy; he was on the Council of the New Zealand Neurological Foundation Past President of the New Zealand Psychological Society and Chairperson of the University of Waikato Department of Psychology.

However, there was so much more to Mike than involvement on committees and task forces. He was a true ambassador for epilepsy, a living spirit of what can be achieved despite a diagnosis of epilepsy. His gentle spirit and kind heart acted as a magnet for people with epilepsy. He was always ready to share words of wisdom or pragmatic advice to those who approached him. He spoke eloquently on his life lived with epilepsy, the good times, and the bad, and won a huge fan base as a result. His calm presence was greatly admired, particularly by young people with epilepsy in the Asian & Oceanic region – a region close to his heart.

Mike’s colleagues around the world greatly admired his insight into every situation. This is evident from the words of those who worked with him since 1993 on hearing of his passing:
from USA – We will never forget his unbridled enthusiasm to help people with epilepsy and fight for the cause;
from Africa – This really is a great loss to our organisations;
from Sweden – This kind and wise man always brought sharp and intelligent advice to whatever problem faced;
from Malta – He was such a gentleman, so positive and always so friendly; from Ireland – He was a terrific role model for people with epilepsy around the world and particularly in the Asian region;
from Holland – We will miss Mike, the entire epilepsy world will miss Mike.”

As testament to the respect in which Mike was held by the global epilepsy community, he received two of the greatest awards that IBE and ILAE can bestow. He received the Ambassador for Epilepsy Award in 1999 in Prague, Czech Republic and the Social Accomplishment Award in Budapest, Hungary, in 2009. Nationally Mike was appointed Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to persons with epilepsy and the community in 2002.

These awards recognise Mike’s outstanding personal contribution to activities that have resulted in a significant advance in the social well-being and/or quality of life for people with epilepsy.

ILAE together with IBE salute Mike’s achievements. They will continue to work towards the improvement of the quality of life of people with epilepsy and follow his shining example.

Mike was also a great family man and Marylin, his wife, was his constant companion especially when he travelled to epilepsy gatherings. He was also a lifelong rugby enthusiast and had been very active with many teams. Watching his beloved New Zealand “All Blacks” win the world cup in 2011 gave him huge pleasure.

For those who knew Mike May 1st was a very sad day. Mike was a kind man, a true gentleman and an excellent example of someone with epilepsy who lived life to the full. He will be remembered with great fondness.

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