I grew up in Irving, Texas. A normal suburb of Dallas. I had a very beautiful childhood in most ways, however I shouldered a lot of burden in others. I was definitely a misfit. I didn’t quite look like anyone in my neighborhood or school. I was different. My parents were from New Orleans, and my mom moved to Texas to work for IBM. So here I am, this little Catholic Creole child living in Texas with dark brown skin and red hair! I stood out.It was challenging finding people who looked like me. As a child I began to struggle with some of the cards life dealt. I chose to bury the pain inside. I spent my days outside riding my bike or swimming. Nature was my friend. One day, after riding my bike for hours, I arrived home, set my bike down on the porch and see a sparkle in the grass. I crept over and found a shiny grey rock with gold specs and gold dust. Was this gold? I ran inside to tell my parents that I struck gold. “That’s fool’s gold” “It’s just a rock” “It has no value” For some odd reason, I felt like I was being called a fool. I did not want to believe that. I went to the library and researched fool’s gold, but it looked nothing like what I had. But maybe they were right? I felt foolish. I decided to throw the stupid rock away. I left the library, sat down on the curb and grabbed the rock from my Shera backpack. I held the rock for a moment, stared at it, upset that it tricked me. In drama queen fashion, I tossed the rock as hard as possible, like a frisbee. The rock left a brilliant gold brush stroke on the concrete and it did not break. I threw it really hard, yet it did not break. I looked at my hand and there were sparkles of gold dust. I instinctively knew it was something more. I hopped up and ran over to get the rock. I was sad that I almost threw away something so amazing because of what people were saying. I was fascinated by the unusual colors and beautiful gold specs. The rock literally shimmered. I had never seen anything like it in my life. I was overwhelmed with excitement and awe at the idea that it probably took 1 million years to create, yet it found it’s way to my hand. My lifelong affinity for nature was born. The rock was with me wherever I would go. The pretty sparkly greyish gold rock was truly my best friend. I poured all of my pain into the rock, anything I dealt with I shared with the rock. Our life was literally a little rocky. We had to leave our home. I was instructed to pack my bags and put everything in boxes. I labeled a “miscellaneous” box, and wrapped my rock safely inside. We leave Texas and go to New Orleans. 6 months in New Orleans go by and I get word we are moving back to Texas. I am so excited. A brand new beginning. We get to our new town, Mesquite. I just cannot wait to see my old friend. But, I get word that somehow the miscellaneous box was thrown away. To this day, I have never seen a rock that was even remotely similar. I must admit,I was devastated. I convinced myself my friend was still out there. I knew we would never meet again. I also knew it was strong and would leave sparkles wherever it would go. Time went on and I forgot about my friend.
Skip forward to today, my life path led me into technology and eventually digital publishing. It was a typical FAB afternoon, and I received a message about Media Day at the Perot Museum to view “The Eyes of Africa”. A few minutes of research exposed the magnitude of this scientific discovery. I had to go!
Media Day arrived and I was all set to visit the Perot Museum to see this rare find for myself. Little did I know, I was about to have a totally different encounter. My mind was laser focused on seeing the Alien Eye. I am escorted into the Mineral Hall and I immediately notice the added security. The event was pretty crowded with media and observers. The people were in a circle gazing. I assumed the Alien Eye was in the middle of the circle by the looks on their faces. However, the Alien Eye was somewhere else. There it was in the distance! The Alien Eye was glowing and literally magnificent. I walked through the circle and right up to the mysteriously beautiful specimen. No one else was looking. I have a front row seat. I was so focused on the specimen, I didn’t notice what was going on around me. I’m standing there alone looking at the intricate details of the Alien Eye found in the Erongo Mountains. I had so many questions. So I look to my right, look to my left, and just ask the question—What are the little dots and specs inside the quartz? I hear a very happy voice come from the left start explaining. My questions kept flowing, and she kept answering. She answered with more and more excitement and detail. She was brilliant, who is she? A real live person who loves minerals and stones as much as me! I could talk to her all day. She has a sway when she talks. That’s the sway of passion. As she swaying I notice a shimmer in her gray blouse. It instantly brings me back to Morgan street in Irving Texas. That one color reminded me of my old friend, my rock BFF from elementary school that I had for all those years. At that moment, she is being motioned back into the circle. I wanted to talk more about the minerals. But she had to go. My heart sunk the same way I felt as a child when my favorite cousins would leave Grandma’s house. She turns to the circle of people and says with delight “ Thank you all for coming. See, I really wanted to bring this beauty, and the other minerals here, to share with the city”
As she faded back into the circle, I realized the circle of people was there witnessing her. In the midst of the circle, she stood, smack dab in the center. The look on her face is the same look I have when I’ve thrown the best party for my sons. Happiness, satisfaction, strength, femininity. Imagine the moment right before Wonder Woman puts her hands on her hips. That was her stance. She was so happy. She was hugging everyone. Saying hello, and thanking them for coming. So who is this Wonder Woman?
Hold up, wait a minute. The woman who was just chatting it up with me? The only other fan girl of the Alien Eye? The woman who was so willingly telling me all the intricate details of the rock was the Lyda Hill? I wasn’t actually expecting to see or meet Lyda Hill. In my mind, if I did see her, I expected her to walk in dripping in rare minerals and be 100% untouchable. She was the total opposite of my unfounded expectations.
Miss Hill was earthy. The epitome of joy. She was dressed in a stunning coral suit with a gray and citrine top underneath. Lyda Hill was polished. I have no other way to put this but, she actually looked like one of the precious stones she collects. A Sciacca Coral or Coral Pink Chalcedony, something vibrant.
Lyda definitely looks like the lady in the neighborhood who has the best garden and sweet tea. Hands down, she has the best garden. She’s fascinating. She has stories from all over the world. She’s simply pleasant. Giddy and bubbly like a 13-year-old girl. Small talk time was over! It was now time to get to the real interview.
The first thing Lyda tells me is if I don’t know her and all her business stuff, “Well, I guess you can google me.” Then she laughs, gives a shrug and nod that can only be described as “really just google me.”
So for those who don’t know, Lyda Hill is an outstanding business leader and philanthropist.
In 1967, she launched Hill World Travel, and in 1970 she became President of Seven Falls, a tourist attraction near Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 1975, she joined the Young Presidents’ Organization. Hill World Travel had become the largest travel agency in Dallas and one of the largest in the country when she sold it in 1982.
She continued her business activities in 1990 with a significant investment in the Fort Worth Stockyards, a historic and popular tourist area highlighting the city’s western heritage.
She developed and constructed the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center in Colorado Springs in 1995 – designed to be free to the public while generating revenue through its retail operation to assist in maintaining Garden of the Gods Park. In 2011, after the center had donated $1.6 million to the Garden of the Gods Foundation, Hill gave the Visitor Center to the Foundation. She is a member of Charter 100, the Chief Executive Organization, the Citizens Council of Dallas, the Committee of 200, the Dallas Assembly, the International Women’s Forum, the Philosophical Society of Texas, and the Young Presidents Organization.
You’ll find enough information online about Lyda Hill to write a book. But for me, I’m not concerned about any of the outer parts of Lyda Hill. One thing I personally believe is that the most generous people usually have the deepest pain. So in my mind, I wanted to understand the person. I wanted to understand Lyda’s drive. I must say that Miss Hill is very quick witted. She listens very carefully and will correct quickly. She is keen and extremely sharp. So all hopes of me having an Oprah moment were tossed out the window.
Highlights from our chat:
What was your first job?– Lyda Hill (LH)
“My first company or my first job?”–LH
“What was your very first job?”–Christiane Miller (CM)
”A lemonade stand. I picked the fruit from my neighbors. Well, now that I think about it I probably never paid for the lemons I borrowed to make the lemonade”……..“I had a paper route in college. I delivered papers at Stanford University. Now that was pretty tough work and funny” — LH
How did you get started as an entrepreneur? –CM
“I always hired someone to run my companies. I carefully selected someone very smart to run the business.” LH
Was that because you weren’t good in business?– CM
“No, I was excellent in business. I was smart enough to let someone else run it.” LH
Between the inspiration and the tongue in cheek wit, Lyda Hill could definitely start a side MEME business. She is very funny, however, her stance and words subtly remind you of why she is a leader. She is commanding yet humble.
To me, this summarizes Lyda Hill:
“Whomever it may concern: “I wish to make the world a better place by advancing solutions to medical and environmental issues through investments in and donations to science. … At my death my entire estate and my foundation will be distributed to charities I have designated.”
Lyda has been living the life! All the things we say we’re going to do if we win the lotto, she’s doing. What’s so fabulous is that she’s making profound impacts here in Dallas. Lyda is a trendsetter. She worked with private collectors and created a space for them to display to the public at the Perot Museum. This effort is responsible for bringing so many unique minerals to The Perot Museum. I heard someone say that 75% of the school kids in Dallas will visit The Perot museum. That means the majority of our children are benefitting from these contributions. That’s simply amazing. After listening to Lyda speak, I felt totally inspired. Inspired to do the things I said I would do as a child. Her vision is beyond vanity and is about opportunity. She reminded me of my rock from elementary school. The rock that taught me to leave a mark wherever I go. To be strong and resilient. She reminded me to see the beauty in things that others may not yet understand. She found the beauty in rocks and dirt. She saw the value in the things that others didn’t care about. She made bold steps to bring innovation and science to her hometown. She was courageous enough to pursue her passions against many adversities. She loves science and math and makes no excuse for that love. She loves Dallas and is willing to sacrifice herself now and forever. My trip to see the Alien Eye led me to something less out of this world and more extraordinary. I discovered Dallas’ most precious gem, Miss Lyda Hill.