Getting to Know Bill Pittman

Date

03/08/18
Bill Pittman after receiving a medal for living 75 years with Type 1 diabetes.

Alumni Spotlight

Name: William H. (Bill) Pittman  

Year/Degree: 1960 PhD

Hometown: Columbia, MO (childhood); Schenectady, NY (now)

Why Illinois? Recommendation from my senior research adviser at the Univ. of MO, Dr. Niels C. Nielsen

Advisor: H. R. Snyder

Research interest while in school
I studied with Dr. Snyder from 1957 to 1960, doing research on oddball kinds of boronic acids. My thesis could well have been titled “Studies in Negative Results”. However, I always received and appreciated encouraging comments and suggestions from Dr. Snyder.

One of the principal things I learned during my studies with him was that I was not cut out to be a research chemist. So I decided I should go to law school and become a patent attorney (now generally know as an “intellectual property attorney”). He encouraged my thinking in those terms.

What did you plan to do after graduation?
Attend law school & become a patent attorney

What did you actually do?
That very thing

What do you do now?
Retired, 20 years, from GE Global Research as Intellectual Property Counsel, Chemical & Materials Technology

Ten years ago, who did you think you would be now?
Since I’m nearly 83 and have had Type 1 diabetes since I was three, I can safely say that ten years ago I thought I’d be dead by now!

What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
Making coffee at the Ethyl Corp. research center in Baton Rouge, LA. I was hired there in 1957 as a summer chemist, but when the plant workers went on strike they moved all the supervisory people (including summer employees) into the plant and had them working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week to keep the place going. I made coffee from 3:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Got a bonus of $100/day for 7 weeks, which in those days was a fortune for a graduate student!

Favorite professor or staff member?
At UI: Dr. Snyder. At Cleveland-Marshall Law School: Prof. Samore at Georgetown Law School: the professor (name forgotten) who flunked me in criminal law and then gave me an A in real property.

Something about you no one would guess
Trolley motorman. I was traumatized at age 3 by conversion to buses of all the trolley lines in Lexington, KY. After that, my lifelong ambition was to be a motorman. I fulfilled it after retirement, on a volunteer basis at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in East Haven, CT.

 

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