Lauren Hill awarded honorary doctorate from Mount Saint Joseph University

CINCINNATI - Basketball player, advocate, and now perhaps one of the youngest people to receive a doctorate from Mount Saint Joseph University.

In a private ceremony Friday afternoon, the university awarded Lauren Hill with the Doctor of Humane Letters.

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Hill, who began her first year at the school in the fall, continues to battle a rare and terminal form of brain cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). She was first diagnosed with the disease in late 2013 after committing to play basketball for the Mount.

Family, friends and faculty were present as Mount Saint Joseph President Tony Artez gave Hill the honorary degree at the Mater Dei Chapel, WCPO reported. 

The Lawrenceburg, Indiana native rose to fame when she filled the Cintas Center on Nov. 2, 2014 in her first college game. She’s gone on to play in other games, but more importantly, Hill has used her story to help raise more than $1 million for cancer research.

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In giving Hill her doctorate, Aretz said, "Lauren has served as an inspiration to us all. Her determined spirit, positive attitude and love of God have taught us all valuable lessons as she has lived the Mount's mission."

The following citation was also read during Hill’s honorary degree ceremony:

Lauren Elizabeth Hill, Honorary Degree Recipient

Never give up. This simple phrase is often offered as a form of support for a person to accomplish a task. Not only has the phrase given Lauren Elizabeth Hill encouragement, it has given her much strength and has become her mantra.

Lauren was an 18-year-old senior at Lawrenceburg High School when she was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable brain tumor that robs many young children of their lives. She was shocked at the diagnosis and did not know how it would affect her life each day. Her sadness led to deep reflection and discussions with God and her parents about the direction to take. Lauren decided she was called to help others, educate people about the disease and to raise funds for research.
Through radiation and chemotherapy, Lauren never gave up her quest to play basketball and graduate from Lawrenceburg High School with her friends.

She longed to play basketball in college and had already committed to attend the Mount. Women’s Head Basketball Coach Dan Benjamin and his assistants were ready to help her live out that dream – to play one more game. But time was of the essence for Lauren, as she grew weaker and tired easily. A host of people dedicated numerous hours to handle logistics of the Mount’s first game of the season against Hiram College, moved to Xavier University to accommodate a larger crowd. On November 2, Lauren and her Lions teammates walked onto the court of the Cintas Center to the cheers and applause of over 10,000 people, many who sported t-shirts that said “Never Give Up 22.” It was a most inspiring game, with gracious and grateful players. The Hills selected The Cure Starts Now as their charity, with money going for brain cancer research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

The fundraising continued as Lauren and her coach sent out a challenge to Layup4Lauren – spin around five times and shoot with your left hand. If no basket is made, $10 is donated to The Cure. She sent out the challenge to many – near and far – including LeBron James, players at other universities and high schools. Her goal was to raise $1 million, which was achieved on New Year’s Eve.

Lauren lives out the words of St. Elizabeth Seton: “Live well to the grace of the moment. Do your best and leave the rest to God.”

She is a hero to many, including a number of pediatricians who have learned more about what their young patients face through Lauren. Along the way, Lauren found a hero – a little boy named Luke who also suffers from a brain tumor. On her visits she wears a blue super-hero cape, with her trademark number 22. She recently presented a blue cape to Luke with the wording “Super Luke 22.”

Today it is with great pride that Mount St. Joseph University presents an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Lauren Elizabeth Hill for her courage to never give up, her faith in God and her respect and concern for others.

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