Phillip C. Hieber, III, a 40-year veteran of Facilities Management who for decades oversaw many iconic Pitt buildings, including the Cathedral of Learning, died December 27, 2020.
“Phil was truly extraordinary,” said Joseph L. Pastorik, director of work control for Hieber’s department, “first and foremost for his commitment to the mission of Pitt and ultimately what our facility effort meant to the student experience.”
Born Sept. 1, 1955, Hieber started at Pitt in 1980 in property management, responsible for the University’s nonacademic leased properties, including housing. After nine years, this office became a part of Facilities Management, and Hieber expanded his portfolio to include the Cathedral as well as other emblematic Pitt facilities, such as Heinz Chapel and the Stephen Foster Memorial. He became the senior facilities manager, overseeing the department’s other top managers, just five years into his tenure there.
Hieber was responsible for “anything from the smallest light switch to the exterior of the building and the surrounding grounds” of the Cathedral and the other top University locations, Pastorik said. “Phil was our go-to man, as our walking encyclopedia.” He handled everything from contacting the National Aviary with the latest developments inside the Cathedral roof falcon’s nest to innumerable late-night calls about water pipe-induced floods or electrical failures that could endanger research.
“Phil just had an amazing personality,” recalled Daniel Fisher, assistant vice chancellor for operations and maintenance. “He loved to work with people — it didn’t matter if it was the chancellor or a student.
“Just about every dignitary that ever visited the campus — Phil was involved in one way or another,” Fisher said. Hieber prepared campus buildings for the visits of presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, working with Secret Service to coordinate secure access, and oversaw the memorial for Sen. John Heinz in 1991 in Heinz Chapel, which involved one of the largest visits of political figures to campus over the past few decades.
Hieber trained all the current facilities managers and oversaw the campus transition to restricted status during COVID-19 as well.
Despite all his large responsibilities, Hieber remained “one of the most approachable men I’ve ever met,” Pastorik said. “He was always thoughtful in his approach to the work and in his approach to people.” He could be a very good work partner but didn’t hesitate to point out a better way to get something done, said Pastorik — “so you learned in the process. He used opportunities for improvement as ways to motivate you to do better.”
“He bled blue and gold,” Fisher said. “He was Pitt through and through. Probably the only thing that took precedence, as it should, was his family.
“It was truly an opportunity and a privilege to work with Phil,” he said. “Phil was a Marine, and I truly believe that his military background was one of the things that made him an excellent leader at the University.”
He is survived by his wife, Carol (Eyerman) Hieber, children Natalie (Oz) Turcan, Phillip C. (Amber) Hieber, IV, and Kristen (Jason) Wilk, and grandchildren Jayden Smith; Aamyiah Hieber; Dylan, Tyler and Georgia Turcan: Connor and Addison Wilk; and the expected Jaxson Wilk and Kade Hieber, as well as siblings John, David and Karen. Memorial donations are suggested to Holy Family Institute.
— Marty Levine