Roger S. Hillas, 92, of Gwynedd Valley, PA died at home with his family on 6/23/19. He was born at home and raised in Wyncote, PA and graduated from William Penn Charter in 1945. He then served in the Navy during World War II and subsequently attended Dartmouth College. He received a bachelor’s from the college and then was called back into service during the Korean War.
Upon his return Roger began working at Provident National Bank in 1951. He continued working for Provident in various capacities for the next thirty-three years eventually rising to the position of chairman and chief executive officer. In 1984, he helped orchestrate the merger of Provident and Pittsburgh National Bank to create PNC Financial Corporation. At the government’s request he was tasked with trying to rehabilitate the Pennsylvania Savings Funds Society and held this position from July of 1988 until December of 1992.
A firm believer in the power of education, Roger served as an overseer at Penn Charter for over fifty years. He also served on a range of boards including the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Warburg Pincus Venture Capital, Vanity Fair, Toll Brothers and Conrail. Additionally, Roger participated in various local, city and state government initiatives.
Throughout his life Roger was a curious individual of varying interests. A prolific reader his love of the written word was evident from birth as legend has it that he was born on the New York Times. His favorite books included biographies of various historical figures, as well as Ferdinand the Bull. He adored the outdoors and passionately advocated for the preservation of open space. This despite his on going battles with a destructive army of resident groundhogs. He also valued the healing power of humor, as evident by his constant quoting of Seinfeld.
Sports were of the utmost importance to Roger, as both a participant and as a spectator. A medal winning high jumper throughout high school and college, he cherished his mementos from the Penn Relays, as well as various collegiate track meets held at Madison Square Garden and the old Boston Garden. He made his final high jump over a clothesline hanging in his backyard to the delight of the neighborhood children. Upon retiring from track and field, Roger continued to harness his competitive edge by participating in pickup basketball games, going beagling, and playing many rounds of Go-Fish, Monopoly and, his personal favorite, Yahtzee. A passionate fan of Philadelphia’s four professional teams he made a note to stay loyal in spite of there being significantly more losing seasons than winning ones and instilled in his children a genuine distaste for any team coming from New York, Boston or, especially, Pittsburgh.
A practical optimist in all facets of his life, Roger valued personal relationships, both within his professional and private lives, for each gave him the opportunity to see the good within those he encountered. Though accepting of advances in technology he continued to cherish walking into a bank to make deposits and withdraws instead of using an ATM, which he forever referred to as “MAC machines”. Those who knew him best remember his preference for in-person meetings instead of phone calls (getting him on the phone for two minutes was considered a milestone) and that his permanent philosophy regarding business meetings could simply be boiled down to the mantra of “the shorter the better”. Whether on the sidewalk in from of his office building, at the Union League, in the bleachers at the Palestra, or while walking in the woods, Roger was keen on meeting new people and getting to know them for whom they were.
In the spirit of his favorite singer, Willie Nelson, Roger truly believed in the concept of taking it easy whenever possible and not taking everything in life too seriously. He often quoted Kurt Vonnegut by saying, “so it goes” in response the happenings of the day. When a cause did strike him, however, he believed in investing both time and effort without compromise and to do so not in the name of self-interest, but of making a commitment to the good of the whole.
Roger was married to and predeceased by his former wife Mary A. Hillas. He is survived by his wife of 35 years Dee Hillas (Reiley), five children (Roger Jr., Susan, Lynn, Heather and Sean), three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He is predeceased by his parents, Roland and Dorothy Hillas, his brothers Roland Jr. and Robert, his sisters Charlotte and Holly, as well as his daughter Charlotte (Cary).
All services will be private. The family asks that in lieu of flowers and donations that those wishing to honor Roger do so by committing to an act of kindness and doing so from the heart.
Arrangements by Shaeff-Myers Funeral Home
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