Argye Idell Briggs Hillis
July 27, 1933 – April 29, 2017
Argye Idell Briggs Hillis, a longtime resident of Waco, passed away peacefully on the evening of April 29, 2017.
Visitation will be 1:00 – 2:00 P.M., with a service at 2:00 P.M., Tuesday, May 2, at Seventh and James Baptist Church of Waco, with the Rev. Erin Conaway officiating. Burial at Oakwood Cemetery will follow the service.
Argye was born in the 30’s Dustbowl of the Texas Panhandle, and then moved with her family to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where her father, Preston Pengra Briggs, was a petroleum engineer, and her mother, Argye McCanlies Briggs, was a novelist. In Bartlesville, she met her husband, William (Bill) Daniel Hillis, whom she married on December 23, 1952.
Argye shared with Bill an adventurous life of science, medicine, and family, as they travelled across the world, living in Baltimore, Maryland; Copenhagen, Denmark; San Antonio, Texas, Covington, Louisiana; St. Johns, Florida; the Congo; Calcutta, India; Waco, Texas; and finally Austin, Texas.
Argye suspended her college studies to help support Bill through medical school, and to start a family. Their three children, William Daniel (Danny), David Mark and Argye Elizabeth (Beth) were born in Baltimore and in Copenhagen, Denmark. Argye never shied from adventure, raising three children in the Congo during a revolution and then moving to Calcutta, India.
In 1968, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland. With her children in high school, Argye finally got a chance to finish her college education, earning a B.S. in Mathematics with highest honors at Towson State University. She then combined her interests in biology and mathematics to earn her Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins studying with Dr. Frederik Bang. Argye became the chief statistician on an important study on the treatment of blindness. This was the first of Dr. Argye Hillis’ many scientific studies and over time she developed a national reputation for her insights in medical mathematics, particularly in the field of ophthalmology.
In spite of her challenging job, Argye stayed involved in service to the community. In Baltimore, she was an active member of Seventh Baptist Church, an inner city church with active programs in childcare, education, homelessness, and other community issues. After their children had left for college, Argye and Bill moved back in the inner city Baltimore to help revitalize the area around Johns Hopkins Hospital. They purchased an abandoned house from the city for one dollar, and renovated it into a home. They lived there, near the Hospital, while they both worked at Hopkins.
In 1981, they moved to Waco where Argye became Director of Biostatistical Research at Scott and White Hospital. There she helped plan and execute a wide range of medical research studies. She also worked with the National Institutes of Health to advise medical studies throughout the nation.
In Waco, she was a member of Seventh and James Baptist Church, and guided a magazine called Seeds, to help fight world hunger. In 2012, Argye and Bill moved to Austin to be closer to their son, David, and his family, while maintaining their deep friendships in Waco. Argye was loved and admired, not only by her husband, her three children, and six grandchildren, but also by her many friends, colleagues, and relatives throughout the world.
Pallbearers will be David Pennington, Frank Mathis, Dan Walker, Jim Moshinskie, Jim Vardaman, Ken Wilkins, Bob Baldridge, and Fred Gehlbach.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the William Hillis Scholars in Biomedical Science Program, College of Arts and Sciences, Baylor University, 76798-7344.