2019-12-19

New School Alumna Barbara Hillary, the First African American Woman to Reach the North Pole, Dies at 88

Hillary was awarded an honorary doctorate at The New School’s 81st Commencement ceremony in 2017. In her speech, she encouraged graduates to follow a path of perseverance and determination to achieve their goals.

“I was raised in Harlem,” she told thousands of graduates at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens. “My father died when I was two. And we were poor. We were sub-Depression poor. But there was no such thing as mental poverty in our home. There was no such thing as ‘Woe is me.’ My mother always told me, ‘If you want something in this world, get off your ass and work for it.’”

After traveling to the North Pole in 2007, at the age of 75, Hillary reached the South Pole four years later. Earlier this year, she traveled to Mongolia to visit a nomadic tribe “whose rural way of life was disappearing because of climate change,” according to a New York Times obituary. While visiting the region, she “spent a day with Kazakh rug makers” and “gave a talk at a village school. “