The passing of Henry L. Hillman on April 14, 2017 marked the end of an extraordinary ninety-eight year life. In the course of a career that started when he left the U.S. Navy Air Corps after World War II, Henry transformed The Hillman Company from its roots in heavy industry into a diversified global investment holding company. He was a pioneer investor in venture capital and private equity before those terms were common nomenclature.
As a philanthropist, he built a legacy of thoughtful, hands-on giving that helped transform Pittsburgh from its post-industrial malaise into the vibrant city we enjoy today. Together with his late wife, Elsie, they were a persistent and reliable force for progress in Pittsburgh and two of the city’s leading patrons for well over 50 years.
Never one to dwell on the past, Henry always looked to the future with a sense of hope and optimism. Always interested in technology, Henry’s life spanned a period from the advent of the automobile to the introduction of the smartphone—of which he was an early-adopter and power-user. Always interested in exploring new opportunities and possibilities, he left his estate to the Hillman Family Foundations to support each of his children’s and grandchildren’s philanthropy and to further advance the work of the Henry L. Hillman Foundation to inspire, invest in, and leverage great ideas and initiatives that improve the quality of life in Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania.
With projected growth that will almost triple our annual grants distribution budget, the Foundations’ directors and staff spent much of the year working with the estate executors and the family trustees on the many changes that lay ahead. It has been an unusually busy and productive time as we develop new program ideas, plan for additional staff and add new administrative tools and protocols needed for a growing organization. It will likely require another year before the estate is fully settled, but the orderly process is moving along as quickly as possible thanks to the support of the Hillman family and the cooperation of the executors and The Hillman Company.
As the Hillman Family Foundations enters a new era, Henry could not have left us a better starting position.
David K. Roger