{ "" }
Share HILARY's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share

We lost Hilary, our radiant guiding light, on June 16, 2017 at age 61. The outpouring of love and gratitude she received in her final months testified to the values she modeled and the institutions, careers and lives she changed. But her heart and soul was her family; her greatest legacy is her presence in the fiber of those she loved. What mattered for her was being a good person, relentlessly exploring and extracting the joys of the world, and constantly celebrating and expressing gratitude for life's blessings. Hilary's fortitude, lust for life, poise, and devotion to others while confronting her own mortality will be a permanent inspiration. Hilary received her B.A. with High Honors from Princeton and her Ph.D from M.I.T. She was Senior Advisor to the Mellon Foundation, University Professor at NYU, and Deputy Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi. She was a founding leader of the team that conceptualized and built NYUAD, bringing the model of a global liberal arts university to the Middle East. She was honored by the unanimous faculty vote to establish the Hilary Ballon Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at NYUAD and the Washington Square plaque commemorating her contributions at NYU. Her scholarship concerned cities and the intersection of architecture, politics, and social life, with a recent focus on New York City. In 2012 she received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture for her publications and curatorial work. She was honored by numerous other fellowships and awards, including national book prizes in the United States and France. She curated exhibitions on subjects including the Manhattan grid, Robert Moses, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Most recently, she co-curated MCNY's permanent exhibition on the City and had lead responsibility for the Future City Lab. She spent 22 years at Columbia University, where she won the University's three awards for outstanding teaching and chaired the Department of Art History and Archaeology and numerous committees, including Admissions. She also chaired or served on over a dozen educational and non-profit boards, reflecting her powerful sense of civic duty and cultural and intellectual interests. She is survived by her husband Orin Kramer; her children, Sophie and Charles; her brother Howard (Joan), sister Carla Gorrell (Mick), sister-in-law Sari Kramer; and their children. Funeral services will be held at Central Synagogue, 55th Street and Lexington Ave., on Monday, June 19th at 1pm. Shiva will be at the Ballon/ Kramer residence in Englewood from 4-9pm Monday and 6-9pm Tuesday. For those wishing to honor Hilary, contributions can be made to the Hilary Ballon Scholarship Fund at New York University supporting first generation college students and community college transfers. Please call 212-988-6960 for further information.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in New York Times on Jun. 17, 2017.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by anonymous
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
39 entries
April 20, 2020
I found out about the passing of Prof. Hillary Ballon, during my 30th college reunion at Columbia University last spring. I was shocked to hear this, because I remember her as one of the best and most vibrant teachers I ever had. I have thought about her continuously since graduating from college, and despite becoming a doctor and going on to Yale medical school, my time as an art history minor at Columbia, and her classes in particular or one of the highlights of my life. I am certain that my decision to become an ophthalmologist and a visual scientist, and much to do with her influence on the power of observation and all the works of art that were presented in her class. The world has really lost a true historian and wonderful individual. May you rest in peace ....my condolences to her family and students.
Tony Vinals
April 11, 2020
I met Hilary and contributed to the Robert Moses conference and book that she organized and edited with Kenneth Jackson in 2007. She was young, energetic, insightful, and very anxious to involve scholars from outside the Manhattan Circle. Based upstate, I didn't even learn of her passing till early 2000. I'm still shocked at how someone with so much life and enthusiasm could no longer be with us. She is sorely and sadly missed.
Ray Bromley
January 16, 2019
Hilary and I met once in 2017 when I delivered a painting to her house. The way she appreciated the artwork, despite her illness, really stuck with me. A lot of people just look at their art, but she was really seeing it. I'm sorry she's gone.
Anthony Browne
June 19, 2018
I have been out of touch with MIT for a while, so only belatedly found out about Hilary's death.

Hilary was my TA for an Ancient Architecture class at MIT in the early 1980's and then, years later, taught my daughter at Columbia. We were so privileged to have her as an instructor for two generations. In addition to her intellectual scholarship, Hilary knew how to connect with students and confidently injected elements of humor into her teaching. When discussing Minoan architecture, she mentioned the Cretans, with a sly wink, as a play on the word "cretin." We realized then that, although rigorous and enlightening, this foundation class was going to be fun. Here was a TA one could talk to, and who enjoyed teaching and excelled at it. My daughter recognized, and benefited immeasurably from, the same qualities during her class with Hilary and Kenneth Jackson at Columbia.

I am so sorry for your loss.
Ellen Katz
January 29, 2018
I knew Hilary at Princeton in the mid-70s. She was a wonderful wonderful person. We lost touch but I've never forgotten her; nor will I ever. I was shocked and saddened to learn of her death and moved by all the tributes she received. Here's a lesson to be learned: If there's someone from your past whom you admired but with whom you've lost touch... get BACK in touch.
My heartfelt and deepest condolences to the entire family.
Claude Goldenberg
January 25, 2018
I knew Hilary Ballon through my brother Mark Jarzombek who was a fellow Ph.D. Student at MIT. She had a magnetic personality that lit up a room and was obviously a brilliant scholar as well. I just heard of her death. What a tragedy to her family and colleagues.
Michelle Jarzombek- Drum
September 18, 2017
I was so saddened to hear about the passing of the brilliant Hilary Ballon. Prof. Ballon delivered an inspirational lecture to the Columbia University Club of Philadelphia over a decade ago, and our Club members still talk about her amazing presentation on the original Penn Station in New York. Prof. Ballon was so gracious to the Columbia alunmni/ae in our region. She was charming, friendly, engaging, and of course, an intellectual tour de force. I stayed in touch with her for several years after she visited Philadelphia, and I will always remember a scholar who had that wonderful combination of genius and genuineness. My prayers to her family. Prof. Ballon was a true gift in the purest sense, not just to Columbia and NYU, but to the world of art history and architecture.
Mark Momjian
September 10, 2017
I am so sorry to learn of Hilary's passing,and send my sincere sympathies to all her family and friends. As Avery Librarian 2004-8 I had the great privilege of working with Hilary before her move to NYU to take up the challenge of establishing a new campus. I will always remember and hold dear her warm appreciation of Avery Library. She was a kind, thoughtful and wise mentor.
Gerald Beasley
July 31, 2017
All my heartfelt condolences to Orin, Sophie and Charles. Hilary was much more than my dissertation advisor to me. She was a role model for her kindness and her balance of family and work. She continued her mentorship and friendship beyond my student years and I so cherished our time together.
In Paris, I learned only recently of this tragic and early loss. I know the French academic community joins me in expressing their condolences.
Victoria Sanger
July 19, 2017
Hilary and I were fellow fellows at the Cullman Center at the New York Public Library several years ago. We became friends and then collaborators; I contributed an essay to her volume on Robert Moses. She was a lovely, funny, warm, giving and extraordinary human being. I greatly admired her generosity, incredible spirit, wise advice, and brilliant insights. I thought the world of her and am so shocked and saddened to learn this news. I send my heartfelt condolences to her family.
Martha Biondi
July 6, 2017
Professor Ballon was one of those rare people who could radiate confidence and intelligence and still be so warm and approachable. A true role model. I will forever be grateful for her guidance and all she taught me. My condolences to Orin, Sophie, and Charles.
Julia Kite
June 27, 2017
I will be forever grateful to Prof. Hilary Ballon. In my 50s I audited her Introduction to Architecture class at Columbia, loved it, and decided I wanted to pursue an M.A. degree. She agreed to sponsor my application, and served as a role model for me. Her intellectual rigor, her dedication to scholarship, her books, her brilliant lectures, her ambitious and authoritative exhibits about Robert Moses, were an inspiration. I am so sorry for your loss.
Susan Roy
June 27, 2017
I'm so very sorry for your loss. She was far too young to leave us.
Naomi Diamant
June 26, 2017
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
June 26, 2017
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
June 24, 2017
To Orin, and Sophie, and Charles, I am so sorry to hear of Hilary's passing. She and I met at Princeton, became good friends by graduation, and kept in touch over the years. For me, while knowing of Hilary's brilliance and professional achievements, I most appreciated her savvy, warm friendship, and humor. I will miss her a great deal. Phil Seibel
June 24, 2017
Orin--my deepest condolences to you and your family. It was fifteen years ago at our 25th Reunion that Hilary introduced you to me. I am so sorry for your loss.
Bob Master
June 24, 2017
To Sophie, Charles, Orin, and the enire Ballon/Kramer
family: You've had a wrenching loss, but you also
had Hillary. Her love and kindness will help you
through grief. No one dies untill they're forgotten
and that will never happen. She's left too much
in every role she fulfilled, in the family and in the
world. Hillary was a shining star and the bravest
woman I've ever known.
Her memory will shine as brightly as she did; she will guide you and many others now and into the future.
My very best wishes, Erica Wanderman
Erica Wanderman
June 22, 2017
June 22, 2017, Hilary Ballon was a creative, brilliant, and original scholar, as well as being a lovely person. Her establishment of the Journal of Society of Architectural Historians as an online journal was ground breaking and visionary. I feel privileged to have known her at the very beginning of her career. I extend my condolences to her husband, children, and family.
Myra Nan Rosenfeld
June 21, 2017
Hilary Ballon was a wonderful lady, mentor and friend to so many. Over the past 7 years that I had the privilege to know her she has inspired me with her great intelligence, lust for life and dedication to her work and family. Hilary fought the great fight and every day did this with such grace and dignity. I was in awe of her continuous strength. As I have watched her over the past year our conversations were around helping those that would be left behind. Her heart was so full. I am so blessed to have known her. Deepest condolences to Orin, Sophie and Charles. May her soul find eternal peace.
audrey longo
June 20, 2017
Hilary was a perfect student. She wrote beautifully, effortlessly, and imaginatively. She was responsible and generous. If she was your TA your life was easy. After graduation, she surpassed her teachers. When we collaborated, it was she that revised my text, not the other way around. Her thesis became a book and her work a model of method and a pioneer in new fields of interpretation. Her accomplishments covered a wide range, from the French Renaissance to the city of New York, from refined scholarship to enlightened administration. A remarkable personality, and a beautiful, dignified and graceful woman. When the Architecture department at MIT sought a graduate for its advisory committees, Hilary was the choice. Through it all, her children were always uppermost in her mind. She never stayed to the end of any conference, she had to get back to them.

David Friedman, professor emeritus, MIT
June 20, 2017
I'm so sorry to hear this news. Hilary was one of my mentors at Columbia in the 1990s. A wonderful and loving teacher, unfailingly encouraging and challenging and inspiring, and someone who taught me so much about looking at urban environments. My thoughts are with her family in this heartbreaking moment.
Richard Wittman
June 19, 2017
Hilary was truly one of a kind. Her academic rigor, great support and appreciation of design, and unfailing ability to get people to strive for excellence was inspiration to me and so many others. I will miss her greatly.
Mark Gordon
June 19, 2017
I send my sincere condolences to your family on the occasion of this devastating loss. Hilary was a most generous colleague and she will be missed in the architecture, design, and academic worlds we each inhabit. She was someone who led by example and I feel honored to have called her a mentor and friend.
Louise Harpman
June 19, 2017
What a tremendous loss to so many people. Hilary will be remembered by so many. As curator of architectural drawings and archives at Avery Library, Columbia University, I worked with Hilary on several exhibitions (the wonderful Robert Moses exhibitions, for one) and welcomed her classes into the archives for special viewings of drawings. Hearing her speak to her classes on those occasions was memorable, it is not a surprise that she won teaching awards. I am grateful to have known her and send my deep sympathy to her family.
Janet Parks
June 19, 2017
This is such a loss! Hilary was a friend, teacher and collaborator. She taught us so much about our city and region, and brought the lessons of history forward to the present. We will miss her.
Tom Wright
June 19, 2017
I have not forgotten Hilary's principled work on the Englewood Planning Board. She spoke truth to power. The world needs more people with such true grit. So sorry she is gone.
Ann Dermansky
June 19, 2017
Hilary was a force of good in our world. She gave of herself project after project, building structures and creating exhibits that reflected her unparalleled character and discipline. So much would not have existed without her vision and focused attention and her legacy is felt and lived at NYU and at NYU Abu Dhabi.
I will forever cherish our years together and am so very grateful for knowing her as a colleague and a friend.
With deep love and admiration.
Karen Gulino
June 18, 2017
Hilary was the vibrant, lively, and majestically practical heart of the Columbia University Department of Art History & Archaeology in the 1990s. Collegial to faculty and students alike, elegant to a fault, brilliantly effective, she had a way of occasionally cracking wise with apercus that I still quote to this day, 25 years later.
Judith Rodenbeck
June 18, 2017
A visionary. And some of us followed her vision all the way to Abu Dhabi... warm regards from all the standing faculty at NYUAD
Paulo Horta
June 18, 2017
Hilary Ballon was a gift to life itself. Wise and radiant, she has left us far too soon. Those who knew and loved her are beyond consolation. May her soul forever rest in peace.
Andrew Moore
June 18, 2017
Hilary was a wonderful teacher and colleague, generous, elegant and warm. She brought energy and imagination to all that she did. I am sure I am one of scores of former Columbia University colleagues who are saddened by her passing.
Frank Wolf
June 17, 2017
Empathy always.
Deepest sympathy.
David D. Doernberg
June 17, 2017
Professor Ballon was one of the most extraordinary people I will ever have had the pleasure to have encountered. She was a radiant presence of joy, and gave such boundless devotion to the causes she embraced, that one was always left inspired by her sheer force of will and her incredible grace and nobility. Even though I only knew her as my professor and as a mentor, she was a pillar of strength and purpose whose legacy will live on in all who were blessed to have known her at all. Her ever welcoming smile is forever imprinted in us all. Rest in Peace Professor.
Kefa Kabanga
June 17, 2017
Hilary was the rare scholar able to earn the respect of academic colleagues and appeal to the public at large. She was brilliant and imaginative. Her work was on the cutting edge of public and digital history. Hilary's exhibition and accompanying book on Robert Moses helped re-frame our understanding of modern urban planning. It also inspired me to pursue curatorial work. I was lucky to be her colleague at the Museum of the City of New York. She encouraged me to be bold with the Folk City exhibition. I will miss her.
Stephen Petrus
June 17, 2017
Hilary Ballon was beyond extraordinary. Her brilliant mind was rivaled only by her compassionate soul.
Lisa Smith
June 17, 2017
We, the students at NYU Abu Dhabi, will be forever grateful to Hilary for her contributions to our young institution. Without Hilary, NYU Abu Dhabi would not have been nearly as great and as excellent. As we walk on our Saadiyat campus highline, we will remember Hilary, as this will be one of her many legacies. We will miss you dearly! To the family: I am very sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers. NYU Abu Dhabi Student
Toma Pavlov
June 17, 2017
I am so sorry for the loss of your loved one. May you find comfort from the words at John 6:40. CR
June 16, 2017
Professor Ballon was one of my mentors during my undergraduate years at Columbia. She imparted her enthusiasm for the inherent beauty of human interaction and design in architectural expressions, the ingeniousness of various approaches to urban design, and, most importantly, her love of teaching. Professor Ballon took small groups of us out to dinner after class. She had coffee with us at the Guggenheim during a voluntary trip on a Friday afternoon. She read and re-read my essays, pushing me to become a more rigorous writer and thinker. I often quote her when I tell my students, "Writing is thinking." Last night, I (having no idea of her untimely passing) came across two essays I wrote and revised for her. I only can hope that my students might, in one form or another, sense my devotion as a pale expression of hers to us. Thank you, Professor Ballon. You meant more to me than I can ever express.
Alison Ritz
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences