Deceased October 4, 2015

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50th Reunion Book Entry

In Memory

Bill McNitt, business leader, proud World War II vet, husband, father, grandfather and longtime Winnetka, Ill., resident, passed away peacefully on Oct. 4, 2015. He was 95 years old. Born June 6, 1920, in Chicago, Bill was the oldest son of Willard C. and Louise (Richardson) McNitt.

Bill loved Amherst College. He was a three-sport athlete, economics major and member of Chi Psi. He was particularly proud to have his three sons and two of his grandchildren graduate from Amherst.

From an early age, Bill was a highly resilient problem solver, tinkerer and lover of machines. He spent hours working on old cars and motorcycles and then driving them around the streets of Winnetka at the tender age of 9. A New Trier alum who loved sports and played the French horn, he graduated from high school in 1938.

World War II needed his help, and in 1942, as a fresh graduate out of Amherst and Harvard Business School, he was commissioned into the navy. Due to the demand for officers, in a few short months Bill, at age 23, was appointed captain of an LST battleship in the Pacific Theater, where he served in all major battles. He told stories of watching enemy torpedoes silently speed by and narrowly miss his ship. A fiercely patriotic American his whole life and part of "America's Greatest Generation," Bill fought to preserve the freedom of his country, not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do.

After the war, Bill met his wife, Charlotte (“Cherry”) on the Northwestern train headed into Chicago. After many train rides together, they wed on Sept. 14, 1946. During their 61 years together, they enjoyed annual family trips to the north woods of Wisconsin and sunny beaches in Florida. Their time living in Vero Beach, Fla., and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., was especially enjoyable. Bill and Cherry loved a good party, and Bill, in particular, had a special fondness for big band music. Even in their later years, a good Glenn Miller tune still prompted Bill and Cherry to get up and dance.

Bill’s problem solving, leadership skills and hardscrabble, never-say-die spirit served him well throughout his successful business career. More times than not, Bill’s drive and resourcefulness was called upon to turn around and grow underperforming companies. Among his favorite assignments were Bowey’s Inc. (president), Consolidated Foods (executive VP & director), W.R. Grace & Co. (executive VP), Ward Foods (president), Westgate-California Corp. (CEO & trustee), Nalley’s Fine Foods CEO) and Joseph Mangin, Inc. (CEO). His attitude personally, as well as professionally, was to set the bar high and dream big.

Despite traveling worldwide on business, Bill was never far from home when it came to supporting his three sons—Bill, Jim and Peter—throughout their young lives. He was particularly proud that all three were Eagle Scouts and Amherst College graduates.

In his later years, Bill’s love of family carried over to his nine grandchildren. He took a personal interest in each of their lives and offered grandfatherly sage advice—even if not solicited! He was very proud of each of them and always ended his phone calls by saying, "be of good cheer!—words he lived by each day of his long life.

Bill, a longtime member of Kenilworth Union Church, is survived by his three sons, Bill '71 (Sally), Jim '73 (Maria) and Peter '76 (Jane); and his nine grandchildren, Billy '06, Meredith '06 (Zack), Bobby (Zoe), Jamie (Jenny), Mike, Emily, Peter, Johnny and Megan. Bill’s wife, Cherry, and two brothers, Bob and John, preceded him in death.

Jim McNitt '73

50th Reunion

Where did the fifty years go? They've really gone by in a hurry. They've been happy, productive and exciting years, though perhaps a little uncertain at times. Fifty years has taught me a lot: Plan for the future, but never fear it; Manage adversity and don't let it manage you; Enjoy the present and keep believing the glass is half full rather than half empty. Most of all, believe that the best years are to come.

Because of Pearl Harbor I left Amherst in December, 1941 to enter Harvard Business School. Here, I completed a year's work in five months. In June, 1942, I received a Navy Officer Commission and for the next four years saw duty in the Pacific Theater on various ships-the highlight was being the captain of an LST. We made all the major landings and were preparing to invade Japan when the war ended!

Back it was to Chicago as a war surplus disposal officer. It was here I met Cherry, a 1945 Smith graduate, and yet had not known her at Amherst. We were married in September of 1946 and I went to work in Chicago. We moved to Winnetka in 1959 and subsequently had three sons who, incidentally, all went on to Amherst. We have been blessed too with wonderful daughters-in-law and six extra-fun grand­ children.

Although Winnetka has been our home for most of these years, we did live in Rancho Santa Fe, California for ten years and three years in Tacoma, Washington. Both of these adventures were business moves and we really found moving to a new spot to be an exhilarating experience-a little like entering Amherst as a pea-green freshman. We had new experiences, new friends and many wonderful memories. Presently, we divide our time between Wilmette (adjacent to Winnetka) and Vero Beach, Florida.

As to a business career, I was a happy combination of an entrepreneur and business doctor: doing "turn­ arounds," managing businesses, specializing in marketing and finance. I had the fortunate experience of heading up four public companies and was president/ CEO of five large and small private companies. I was involved with many food and non-food businesses. I am now retired but continue to do some consulting and investing. One could say that business is no longer a vocation, but is now a hobby. My other interests have included Boy Scouts (we had three Eagle Scout sons) and the usual church and community activities. I continue to enjoy reasonable health, which permits golf, travel, and mental stimulation.

As I look back, we the class of '42 were fortunate to have shared a college experience that was very special but at the same time the end of an era. We came in with the '38 hurricane and departed with World War II on. Perhaps these special experiences have made us all better persons. Thank my classmates for their friendships over the years and look forward to more good years ahead.

Willard C. McNitt