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Family of Robert and Elizabeth Hemphill

Robert and Elizabeth Hemphill

Robert and Elizabeth Hemphill had a deep interest in issues of culture, language, education, and society throughout their careers and lives. The scholarship that their sons Robert Jr. and David Hemphill have donated in their names is meant to support SF State Graduate College of Education students who are pursuing the same issues in their own studies and lives.

Col. Robert Frederick Hemphill (USAF, Retired) had a long and distinguished military career that featured many years spent in Japan. He saw World War II combat service in the Pacific with the decorated 507th Fighter Group, and at the end of the war Robert elected to remain in what became the US Air Force. He served for over 26 years as a pilot, judge advocate, operations planner, and diplomat. Fluent in spoken Japanese, Robert was proudest of his service as Air Attaché at the American Embassy in Tokyo, Japan from 1964 to 1967. Upon completion of his Air Attaché assignment in Tokyo, Robert received an award seldom given to foreigners, the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Degree, from the government of Japan in recognition of his distinguished service to both countries. Robert was an active member and leader of several church congregations and was also a clever and gifted storyteller, and published a book of humorous children’s stories. He was also a prolific poet, and compiled a book of poetry entitled “Hand Me Downs” (1996). Upon retirement from military service, Robert lived in Hawaii for 20 years, serving as a legislative staff member in the Hawaii State Legislature. He subsequently moved to Olympia, WA, where he also lived for 20 years.

Elizabeth Anne (“Betty”) Roach Hemphill received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska and her MA in History of Religion from George Washington University, studying with Dr. Clifton Olmstead, a noted historian of American religion. She lived in Japan for over twelve years, accompanying her husband on military assignment, and this experience with the Japanese culture resulted in the publication of four books: Missions at Work, A Treasure to Share, The Road to Keep, and The Least of These. During this period she was also a counselor and trustee of Japan International Christian University. When she returned to the United States to live in Hawaii, Betty Hemphill’s interests in Japanese and Christian themes broadened to include women’s issues. She published a book of poetry, Third Testament Women, in Hawaii in 1979. She was a leader in activities of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), and served as president of the Hawaii State Division from 1978 to 1982. In 1982, she was one of five women honored by the YWCA of Hawaii for community leadership, and she was a member and past chair of the Library Advisory Commission, City and County of Honolulu. Betty was the mother of three children, Robert F. Hemphill, Jr., Virginia Anne Adams and David F. Hemphill.

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