PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Henry L. Hillman was considered the best of what Pittsburgh had to offer.
He was a giant in the business world and an even bigger philanthropist. But few people really got to know the man like Marina Posvar, daughter of former University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Wesley Posvar. As a teenager, she grew up with his sons, spending lots of time in the Hillman household.
“Elsie and Henry were like second parents to me, certainly they treated me that way,” she said.
Henry Hillman was 98 when he died on Good Friday, he was born on Christmas Day. Marina remembers him playing the piano at his birthday parties.
“He encompassed love of life, he always had a twinkle in his eye and he always had the most incredible sense of humor,” she said.
Hillman was incredibly generous, but he shunned publicity, preferring to stay in the background and leaving his late wife Elsie in the spotlight.
“He would have just given everything anonymously, that’s just the kind of man he was he was, just truly from the heart a giving person,” Marina Posvar said.
The Hillman Foundation gave millions, with a interest in science, technology and medicine. A $10 million grant built the Hillman Cancer Center. Another $20 million gift started the Hillman Fellows Program for innovative cancer research.
Cancer center chairman Dr. Stanley Marks said Elsie and Henry Hillman’s generosity recruited over 100 world class cancer researchers.
“Many of those researchers have gone on and with those dollars requested additional dollars from other sources and parlayed that $20 million into many more dollars,” Dr. Marks said.
He said cancer research would not be where it is today without the Hillmans. That same generosity has been a great benefit to projects at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.
“He drove us in position, Pitt, to be a leader in some of the biggest areas of medicine, whether that’s in cancer, immunotherapy, transplantation, and that in turn is transforming not just the region, but the whole world,” Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said.
Henry Hillman, a man who gave so much to so many, is gone but never forgotten.
“It’s a tragedy but my gosh, he lived until 98 years old, how fortunate are we, how fortunate was he, he had a blessed life and he lived it to its fullest,” Posvar said.