was a man who was successful and accomplished in every area of his life—as a
scholar-athlete, devoted husband to his high-school sweetheart and father of
four accomplished children, a brilliant engineer who played a part in every
major technological achievement of the mid-20th century, and a
charismatic and effective leader who rose to and excelled at the highest levels
the word most often used to describe former chair of the Board of Trustees and
interim president Bill Hittinger, who died in March at the age of 90, was
mid-October, those who knew Hittinger best spoke at a Celebration of Life service
in the Zoellner Arts Center—the cultural venue he was instrumental in
developing on the Lehigh campus during his tenure on the board.
Kender, vice president of advancement and alumni relations, spoke of
Hittinger’s amazing ability to make anyone—no matter what his or her station in
life—feel like the most important person on the room.
President Alice Gast characterized Hittinger’s contributions and loyalty as
was a warm and generous leader” whose humble leadership was evidenced by his service
to the university he loved. “Bill was probably the only former Lehigh president
and Board chair to volunteer his time to sit at the information desk in the
Alumni Memorial Building,” said Gast, who described him as “a magnificent person
and true role model.”
son, William J. Hittinger, talked about his father’s modest upbringing in
Bethlehem, where he always had his sights set on “the school on the hill,
although it often seemed out of reach.”
his academic and athletic accomplishments offered him entrée to the Ivy League
by way of Penn and Cornell, Hittinger chose Lehigh since it was the only school
that guaranteed his athletic scholarship in the event of injury, the younger
lived at home, and walked miles back home after football practice. He really
was one of those people who walked miles to school,” he said to laughter.
William and his brother, David, spoke of their father’s incredible devotion to
his family, as evidenced by the time he spent with them working on homework,
playing sports, sharing his wisdom or generally supporting them in all their
came first, no matter how heavy the briefcase at night,” William said.
attention and evident love of time spent with his family made his children
feel, “snug and warm and secure and happy,” David said.
was kind and loving, but he set high standards and expectations,” David said.
“He expressed disappointment and disapproval in a mild way. I’ve tried to model
that behavior in my own professional life. I’ve found it’s so much more
effective to be someone’s friend and be disappointed than to be someone’s enemy
and kick them in the butt. It’s a very powerful management tool and he used it
lifelong learner, the elder Hittinger continued to absorb information, often
drawing upon his vast reservoir of knowledge to provide counsel to his children
and grandchildren. One of them, David C. Hittinger Jr., said that his wise, gentle,
fun-loving and extraordinary grandfather “might as well have been Superman”
when he was growing up.
knew how everything worked. He knew the answer to any question. And he could
punt a football so high in the air that if you could catch it, it would rip the
skin off your arms.”
elder Hittinger took personal interest in all his children and grandchildren,
encouraging each of them to discover and nurture their special talents and find
their own path in life.
positively affected everyone around him with his heart,” David said. “It’s a
life not be mourned, but celebrated.”
Story by Linda Harbrecht
Posted on Friday, October 11, 2013