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Inducted in 2017
Hillis was born in Kokomo, Indiana, in 1921. She began to study the piano at the age of five and continued with several other instruments, including woodwinds, brass, and double bass. She made her conducting debut, while still a student, as assistant conductor of her high school orchestra.
After suspending her studies during World War II to become a civilian flight instructor in Muncie, Indiana, Hillis received a bachelor of music degree in composition from Indiana University in 1947 and later studied conducting privately with Julius Herford and with Robert Shaw at the Juilliard School. She later became assistant conductor of Shaw's Collegiate Chorale.
In 1950, Hillis founded the Tanglewood Alumni Chorus, which later performed as the New York Concert Choir and Orchestra. She also worked as a choral conductor for the New York City Opera and the American Opera Society. During her years in New York she taught choral conducting at the Juilliard School and Union Theological Seminary. From 1970–1977 she was Director of Choral Activities at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.
Hillis was also founder and music director of the American Choral Foundation (now Chorus America), an organization that sought to raise the standards of choral performance.
In 1992, Hillis conducted the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra and Choir as part of the Mozart Bicentennial Celebration in Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, New York. 
From 1968 through to the time of her death in 1998, she lived at 929 Sheridan Road in Wilmette IL. At her home, she would from time to time conduct small group practices and hold informal ensemble performances in her spacious living room for friends and acquaintances.
Prior to her death, Hillis bequeathed her personal collection of scores, books, and other memorabilia to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Rosenthal Archives. Included are numerous sound recordings as well as scores and parts bearing her personal markings and analyses, Grammy Awards and other certificates and mementos, photographs, and personal papers and correspondence.