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NEWS: Rose-Hulman Commencement 2013

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Health Care Innovator, Robert Hillis, Receiving Honorary Doctorate

May 22, 2013

Robert J. Hillis

Robert J. Hillis, a 1969 Rose-Hulman alumnus who has founded one of the nation’s largest providers to health care networks and built the nation’s first true virtual distributorship, will return to his alma mater to receive an honorary degree of engineering during the institute’s commencement on Saturday, May 25.

Hillis, who earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, is president, chief executive officer, and founder of Direct Supply, Inc. He started the virtual distributorship, now known as Direct Supply Equipment & Furnishings in 1985, and it has become the largest supplier of equipment to senior living in the United States. It supplies nearly 17,000 institutions with more than 500,000 products, with no inventory.

In 1993, Hillis took the virtual concept to the Internet and formed Direct Supply DSSI—the nation’s first health care ecommerce network. Today, DSSI operates the largest virtual private network in health care. More than 2,500 suppliers and 9,000 health care institutions buy and sell more than three million products on DSSI. Direct Supply has also expanded into five strategic business units–Direct Supply Equipment & Furnishings, Direct Supply DSSI, Direct Supply Aptura, Direct Supply TELS, and Direct Supply Services & Solutions.

Hillis is also the founder and chairman of the Alliance Partners, a group of health care suppliers that support the Alliance for Quality Home Nursing Care—14 of the largest senior living operators. He also chairs the Strategic Policy Group in Washington, D.C., composed of the Alliance, AHCA, and LeadingAge. Hillis has been very active on the political scene representing the senior living profession in Washington, D.C.

After graduating from Rose-Hulman, Hillis earned a Master of Business Administration from Indiana University and received an honorary doctorate in engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 2007.