2008 Distinguished Alumni Award

Duane Hill
B.A. Psychology, 1978
Retired Cheif Executive Officer, Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation

Through visionary leadership, technical expertise and quiet persuasion, Mr. Hill has invented, built and sustained the community development movement in rural Northern California. Born and raised in Red Bluff, California, Mr. Hill has spent the last four decades in the local nonprofit sector. In 1969 he left his job at a lumber products firm to work in the Lassen-Modoc-Plumas-Tehama Community Action Agency. In that capacity he launched a career in activism and nonprofit administration by establishing a welfare-rights organization and lobbying cities and counties to create a housing authority. Despite severe opposition, Mr. Hill expanded the service menu of the community action agency to include a variety of essential services, including Tehama County’s first senior center. Recognizing that he needed to pursue higher education to better serve his community, he left Red Bluff to attend junior college in Mendocino County, and later earned his bachelor’s degree from Sonoma State University.

At that time, Mr. Hill also assumed a series of increasingly responsible positions at Mendocino County’s largest nonprofit human service agency, North Coast Opportunities. Included in these were the responsibilities of Housing Specialist, which led to the formation of a new nonprofit corporation – the Rural Housing Development Corporation. Mr. Hill recognized the overwhelming need for affordable housing in rural areas before this need came to national attention. At that time, cities were receiving substantial housing subsidies, but few resources were being distributed in rural areas. Mr. Hill assembled a board of influential volunteers and with those individuals, embarked on a campaign of community awareness and public education that led to the strategic expansion of Rural Communities Housing Development Corporation. Under his leadership for the past 33 years, the agency grew to become the largest nonprofit affordable housing developer in rural Northern California.