As Trumansburg High School students filed into the auditorium at the end of the school day on Friday afternoon, the “worst-kept secret” that prompted the day’s assembly had already started to make the rounds.
“You thought there was no Santa Claus,” said a suited gentleman, addressing students from the podium. “I’m here to correct that.”
The speaker was Jim Huttar, and he would break the big news on behalf of his brother Philip, a Trumansburg High School and Syracuse University graduate who passed away earlier this year in Front Royal, Va.
Surrounded by family, friends and administrators from Trumansburg schools and Syracuse University, Jim announced that Philip – class of 1949, had gifted a $1.5 million endowment to Syracuse University, earmarked specifically for Trumansburg students attending college there.
Each year, one – or as many as three -- deserving Trumansburg students will have the opportunity to attend Syracuse University on a full or partial scholarship.
“He said, ‘Syracuse University changed my life forever,’” Jim recalled, “and his love for Trumansburg is the reason why you will have exclusive access to that money.”
Syracuse Dean of Student Affairs Thomas Wolfe attended the ceremony and accepted the $1.5 million check.
Marking the scholarship as “a new beginning,” Wolfe said Philip’s generosity is a model for everyone.
“I’m certain your brother is proud right now,” Wolfe said, addressing Philip’s three siblings who attended the ceremony. “It’s my privilege to receive this gift that will serve for Trumansburg students to attend Syracuse University.”
Philip was described as an enthusiastic leader whose pride in both Trumansburg and Syracuse lasted his entire lifetime. In fact, the Trumansburg schools alma mater – performed by the student chorus during the ceremony – was written by Philip.
The Huttars, as Jim explained, were not a rich family, but when Philip was offered a chance to participate in a weekend of debates at Syracuse University, he took it. His enthusiasm and talents at the event won over Syracuse administrators, who offered the high school student a full scholarship.
Upon graduating from Syracuse in 1954, Philip spent two years in the U.S. Army. After his service, Philip went back to Syracuse University in hopes that the school could help him line up a job. They did, and he spent the next 23 years with General Motors before retiring at 47.
In his retirement, Philip applied himself to his investments, his success refuting old elementary school records – dug up and presented at the ceremony by High School Principal Jon Koeng, that stated Philip had a problem with math.
“We’re all individuals no matter where we live,” Jim said, “and we can have a huge impact on others. That’s Philip’s message today.”
Three of Philips fraternity brothers from Phi Gamma Delta sat together in the front row and remembered their friend.
“I’ve never known anybody as loyal to the university than Phil Huttar,” Brad Strait said. “He was unique.”
Added Bruce Kennedy, “He was a wonderful leader with tremendous enthusiasm in everything he did.”
Syracuse and Trumansburg still need to iron out whether the endowment will cover full tuition for one student or help cover partial costs for three students, Jim said. Next year’s senior students will have the opportunity to apply for the scholarship, he said, and current-year seniors could take advantage of the scholarship if a student decides to transfer to Syracuse University from another college.
Koeng said the scholarship opportunity would be ongoing, with any future earnings reinvested back into the fund.