Indianapolis native Paul Hitch ’39 was a teenager during the Great Depression and couldn’t afford the university he initially dreamed of attending. However, he learned about the General Motors Institute of Technology, and this new path changed his life for the better.
“I’ve had a good life, and the way I got a good life was through GM Tech,” he said. For this reason Hitch established a Kettering student scholarship and did so through a planned gift. The scholarship is for incoming Kettering students who graduated in the top 15% of their high school class, and financial need is a consideration in selecting award recipients.
Hitch was twelve years old when the Great Depression started in 1929, and it influenced his life.
After graduating from high school, he started working at a machine shop, making 40 cents an hour. “I wanted to do a little better than that,” he said.
Although Hitch wanted to further his education, the cost was prohibitive. At this time, General Motors had just bought the old Martin Perry Plant in Indianapolis, and Hitch learned about the company’s co-op program. He applied and was accepted to GM Tech, as Kettering was known at the time, and he worked for GM for 43 years. Fondly, he recalls his start at the Indianapolis plant, which GM rebuilt as the largest stamping plant in the nation. He shared, “If I hadn’t gone to GM Tech, I probably wouldn’t have had the good job I had.”
Hitch began his career designing sheet metal parts for the Chevrolet truck. In 1941, he transferred to the Chevrolet Central Office in Detroit; and the following year, he transferred to Cadillac Engineering. Interrupting his automotive track, Hitch was enrolled in the U.S. Naval Reserve in February 1943 and served on active duty for three years in Hartford, Connecticut; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Jacksonville, Florida.
Upon completion of his naval service, Hitch returned to Chevrolet in Detroit. In 1955, he transferred to the Chevrolet Engineering Building in Warren, Michigan, and eventually took the charge of all components, and this role is what really impacted his career. In 1965, he became Chief Engineer for Trucks and served in that position for one decade. He oversaw the development of the Chevrolet Blazer and the trucks that would become the most sought-after collectables.
“We were number one in the truck business,” he said. “I took quite a bit of pride in that.” Hitch’s personal favorite was the 1973 Chevrolet Truck.
Hitch later became the Director of Engineering at Vauxhall Motors in Luton, England, where he worked for two years until his retirement. He and his wife, Mildred, moved to Savannah, Georgia, finding enjoyment in retired life, and Savannah remains his home to this day.
At 102 years of age, Hitch is one year older than the Chevrolet Truck Division he once led as Chief Engineer. General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra ‘85 was 15 years old when Hitch retired.
“I’ve had a wonderful life. I can’t really emphasize that enough,” Hitch said. “GM Tech turned out to be a real good opportunity for me. Now I want to support some students.”