Honoring Bill Hite ’66 is a no-brainer. Just “google” his name and learn about the extraordinary accomplishments of this third generation pipe fitter. President Obama and President Bush both call him “Billy,” as he has been a highly respected member on both of their Export Councils, alongside some of the most distinguished CEO’s and politicians, Democrats and Republicans, in the country.
In 2005, Cardinal George honored Bill, along with the President of People’s Gas and Northern Gas and the Commissioner of the Chicago Public Library with the Rerum Novarum Award for their devotion to bringing together leaders of business, labor, and education who make a positive difference in the lives of American workers.
Bill is also becoming a leading national voice and fund raiser to help those afflicted with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow which he has been battling for years, requiring massive dosages of chemo therapy and steroids, along with a bone marrow transplant and the removal and return of his own stem cells. Bill and his wife Pat help themselves get through such suffering by helping others get through it.
Last April, “Billy” earned the Distinguished Service Award from the Military Officers Association of America for running the Veterans In Piping program, which trains active members of military service and veterans for construction work, placing them in jobs after their service is completed. Bill first began committing his considerable resources to helping secure the futures of those who secure our safety as a leading supporter of Helmets to Hardhats, whose Midwest Regional Director Bill Mulcrone ’96 was among the first to nominate Bill into the Alumni Hall of Fame Induction.
Each one of these accomplishments, of and by themselves could have merited consideration for the Brother Rice Alumni Hall of Fame, and we have not yet mentioned the distinction for which Bill Hite is most famous. As the President of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing, Pipefitting, and Sprinkler Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, commonly known as the UA, Bill leads one of the strongest and most highly regarded labor unions in the country, not only because his leadership brings fair compensation to its members, but also because of how active the UA has remained in all facets of educating and therefore building the skills set of its craftsmen. The UA is one of the only unions in the country to grow and maintain its membership, which today includes over 320,000 members.
“I joined the Navy and later got a degree in labor studies, but everything I have is because of my Brother Rice education,” Bill said at a breakfast meeting with Alumni Director Jim Casey ’70, last February.
“I’m on a first-name basis with President Obama, as I was with President Bush, and I never planned to go to college,” Bill said, smiling and laughing with self-deprecating astonishment. “I had good grades at Rice, but I also always knew I’d be a (3rd generation) pipe fitter,” Bill added, reflecting back on how he predicted that high school was going to be the long-lasting foundation for his formal education.
“I’m sure he is ok with me also calling him ‘Billy,’” Casey said. “Here’s a guy who pops up on the whole first page full of a Google search with links to stories and videos of important appointments and honors conferred upon him by Presidents, Generals, CEO’s and Clerical Hierarchy, and he talks to you in the same way he would talk to them, real friendly and forthcoming with boundless energy and insight, despite his ongoing battle with a debilitating cancer,” Casey added.
He might have thought about hiding his illness, but that would not have helped him help others, which is what Bill Hite is all about. Apparently, this has not slowed him down in the eyes of his membership, because he was again unanimously elected for another 5-year term by the 3,500 delegates who convened in August. While it is probably true that they elected him primarily for his ability to make and use his connections in order to help their members make the best possible living, it is a distinct tribute to UA membership that they also endorse their leader’s willingness and capacity to help others.
According to Casey, Billy seems equally comfortable with and interested in Joe the Plumber as he is Barack or George the President: “I don’t see how anyone can meet Bill Hite or learn about him and not like the guy,” Casey said. “At the same time he began supporting Brother Rice with an Emerald Page ad in our ad book, I also received both the letter from Bill Mulcrone, who is an iron worker, not a fitter or plumber in the UA, and another letter from a 1968 McAuley grad, urging us to honor him after she heard him speak at a conference on construction safety. It also seems like every fitter or plumber I know in the Chicago area knows Billy and his brother, Bob Hite ’64 personally, and when you ask him about them, he adds something personal about them that you didn’t know,” Casey added.
So go ahead and “google” Bill or William Hite UA, and learn how he speaks so persuasively and informally about why he enjoys finding thousands of jobs for those who risk their lives in military service, or keeping millions of jobs here at home for American workers, or how it is possible to live a meaningful life while suffering from cancer, or how proud he is that his son is a 4th generation pipefitter, and how fortunate he feels to be able to help improve the lives of his 320,000 members, while learning about how this Brother Rice graduate epitomizes everything we have all been taught about helping others, and thereby “Acting Manfully in Christ Jesus.”
Casey senses that Bill Hite is just as proud of graduating from Brother Rice and St.Christina as he is of his many more famous accomplishments and well-connected friends, because his pride is rooted in the humility that thinks of others first. Whether we call him Bill, Billy, or William Hite, he is a clear and past-due choice to be inducted into the Brother Rice High School Alumni Hall of Fame.