Memorial Service for Dr. Hildelisa C. Hernandez,
Professor Emerita of Physics
Dr. Hildelisa C. Hernandez was the first faculty holding a Doctoral degree at the College of Wilmington. During her 36 years of service before retiring in 1999 from the Department of Physics, she had a tremendous impact on generations of students. Long after her retirement, she continued to be active at UNCW through the Newman Center. She left us peacefully on August 8, 2012, surrounded by her family in California.
Dr. Hernandez grew up in Mariel, Cuba and received her D. Sc. in Physics from the University of Havana. She taught in Cuba for eleven years. She and her family fled Cuba at the onset of the Castro regime and relocated in Raleigh where she taught physics at NC State University couple of years. In 1963 she took a post teaching physics at the College of Wilmington, while her husband joined the mathematics department. According to her Oral History Interview in the Randall Library Archives, there were at the time only about 100 faculty and 500 students and no physics degree program. She was instrumental in bringing the physics program to fruition and was appointed Associate Professor with tenure in the department of Physics in 1968.
Dr. Hernandez’s ability to interest students in science was legendary and she particularly encouraged women to study Physics. Her commitment to teaching and advising was evident in the time and effort she put into her courses, including countless summer sessions which attracted many students from other North Carolina universities. Her legacy is measured by the large number of students she steered into the challenging field of physics, many of whom went on to obtain higher degrees. She promoted all of the sciences and advised students to seek dual degrees with mathematics. Dr. Hernandez wanted her students to be as curious and eager to learn as she was. “I like to get them excited about learning,” said Dr. Hernandez.
Dr. Hernandez also gave to the community. She was active in the church and in the community and took it upon herself to tutor underprivileged immigrant children. All of this on top of being a member of the academic workforce and raising five children of her own to become productive members of the society. In 1998 Dr. Hernandez was recognized by the YWCA’s Women of Achievement Award in Education.
There will be a memorial service on the UNC Wilmington Campus in order to remember Hildelisa and her contributions to the university. The service will take place Saturday, August 25th from 10:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. in the Burney Center. A mass is will also be held for Dr. Hernandez at Saint Mark’s (1013 Eastwood Road, Wilmington, NC 28403) on August 23rd at 2:00 P.M.
The university welcomes memorial donations to the Dr. Hernandez Physics Award. The donations (noted on the check or with an attachment) may be sent to UNCW, Advancement Services, 601 S. College Road, Wilmington, NC 28403.