Jerome Hill's name provides a window into his manner of philanthropy and charity. Although he was born James Jerome Hill II, he chose to be known as Jerome Hill rather than James J. in part to distance himself from the considerable weight of that famous name.
James Jerome Hill I, Jerome's grandfather, was a famous railroad magnate, nicknamed the "Empire Builder," who established the Great Northern Railway as one of the premier East-West rail routes in the United States.
Jerome Hill, financially independent due to trust funds established by his grandfather and by his father, Louis W. Hill, never sought to lord this wealth over his acquaintances. He was careful to keep his connections obscured among casual acquaintances, and this practice even led to Life Magazine, in a World War II sidebar, identifying Hill only as a "house painter."
While in his early life, his charity largely took the form of supporting struggling
friends and relatives, he slowly branched out. In the 1950s and 1960s, Hill
began actively funding a wide variety of artists and creative professionals.
In 1966, he began the Avon Foundation, a granting organization that continues
to this day in the form of the Jerome Foundation. It focuses on supporting the work of emerging creative artists in Minnesota
and New York City. A sister organization in France, the Camargo
Foundation, sponsors residencies at Hill's Cassis property for scholars and students of French and francophone culture, as well as visual artists, composers and creative writers.
The importance of Hill's support of the arts lies in his open mind toward experimental and avant-garde expression. Now, as it did during his life, Hill's philanthropy supports new and emerging artists that have few options for ongoing funding.