Hilliard Helps Owls Find Purpose

Herbert Hilliard – a man who has seen success on the basketball court, in the business world, and in community involvement – took the Hyde Chapel stage to urge Owls to find their purpose.
Earl Houston ’28 introduced his grandfather as the first African American basketball player at the University of Memphis and retired executive vice president, chief risk officer, and chief government relations officer at First Horizon National Corporation. He served as the youngest chair at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, and he chaired the Memphis Housing Authority, the Shelby County Airport Authority, the United Way General Fund Drive, and the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner. He is currently chairman of The National Civil Rights Museum and the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission.

Houston then offered a more personal viewpoint. “Herbert Hilliard is just my “Papa,” who never lets me win a game, who challenges me in math, and who attends my soccer games. Also, he calls himself my personal chef, Uber driver, and travel buddy.”

Hilliard began his talk with a favorite quote, from author Mark Twain: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why,” he said.

“Unfortunately, a great many people have never found or even thought that much about their true purpose,” Hilliard said. “By many of today’s standards some people are successful, well-educated, and powerful. But did they ever stop to ask themselves one simple question – ‘Am I living in the fullness of my purpose?’”

Hilliard referenced the journeys of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital founder Danny Thomas, Dr. Jonas Salk, and artist Leonardo da Vinci in discovering their life goals. After achieving success in basketball and finance, Hilliard came to his own discovery: “I realized that my real purpose in life was to help other people. I truly believe that the only true measure of success is what you have done to help someone else.”

He offered a few questions that will help in finding purpose.
  • What you are good at doing?
  • What do you care about in your community, your city, or this world?
  • What are you doing that is giving you a skill or knowledge that can be used for a meaningful cause?
  • If you could do something without getting paid, what would you choose to do?
He concluded with a call to action: “MUS students, as you make plans for 2024, I encourage you to keep your eyes open to pathways that will lead you to your purpose,” Hilliard said. “And when you find your true purpose, here’s what I want you to do: Welcome it, own it, nurture it, build on it, and share it.”