T. Christopher Pettit’s name is forever set in stone in history as one of Huntington High School’s most spectacular scholars and athletes ever.
A member of the Class of 1963, Mr. Pettit captained three varsity Blue Devil teams and went on to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was a two-time All-American lacrosse player and the team’s captain and leading scorer.
Born in Huntington Hospital on February 18, 1945, Mr. Pettit enjoyed a remarkable career at Huntington High School, serving as captain of the football, basketball and lacrosse teams and being elected G.O. president by the student body. He addressed classmates as the “honor speaker” at the 102nd annual commencement on June 25, 1963 at 8:15 p.m. in the school auditorium.
“Things do not happen in this world; they are brought about by people who are concerned and who become involved,” Mr. Pettit said during his commencement address. “I know that we can have the courage to affirm life by our involvement in living.”
After graduating from West Point, Mr. Pettit became a battery commander on a missile base in what was then West Germany. He also served in combat as an Army Ranger in the Vietnam War, earning two Bronze Stars and moving up the ranks to captain.
Following his military career, the Huntington alum taught math for two years and coached football and then was in business for four years before joining Lehman Brothers in 1977. He quickly climbed through the commercial paper and bond divisions. Mr. Pettit was named a partner in 1982 and eventually became the legendary Wall Street firm’s president and chief operating officer. He left the company on November 26, 1996.
Mr. Pettit was killed while snowmobiling at night on a frozen lake near Windham, Maine on February 15, 1997. He reportedly hit a stump and his helmet dislodged as he was thrown from the fast moving vehicle. He sustained a massive head injury and passed away while being rushed to a nearby hospital. The Huntington grad was 51 years old. He is interred in St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.
In the weeks and months that followed the tragedy, Mr. Pettit’s family created an annual scholarship that currently provides a four-year award worth a total of $10,000 ($2,500 per year) as well as a one-time award of $1,500.
Mr. Pettit’s daughter, Lara Pettit Breingan was on hand for this year’s scholarship ceremony, which was held earlier this month in the Huntington High School auditorium during senior academic awards night. She was accompanied by one of her children and spoke with emotion in her voice.
“My father loved his Huntington High School experience,” Ms. Petit Breingan said. “He had a genuine concern for the welfare and betterment of young people, which was evident throughout his life. His personal involvement and generous support positively influenced many Huntington student-athletes and sports programs. To my father, sports were a constructive and rewarding way to encourage teamwork, concentration, leadership and self-confidence. He believed the attribute of one’s ‘effort’ was vital in promoting a successful career and individual achievement.”
This year’s top Pettit scholarship of $10,000 was presented to Amber Stieve, who is headed to Old Dominion University in Virginia where she has been recruited to play on the women’s lacrosse team. The teenager plans to study for a career as a physical therapist.
“I’m honored to receive such an amazing scholarship,” Ms. Stieve. “I’m so thankful to the Pettit family for being so generous towards my educational endeavors.”
Named a Distinguished Senior earlier this spring after compiling a minimum academic grade average of 90 in every semester of high school, Ms. Stieve is one of the most well-liked members of Huntington’s Class of 2018. She played three varsity sports and earned many admirers among her classmates and faculty members. She participated in Natural Helpers, assisting fellow teenagers as they worked through difficult personal issues. She is also a veteran of the Young Leaders youth development organization.
Huntington Class of 2018 member Luke Eidle received a one-time Pettit scholarship in the amount of $1,500 in recognition of his outstanding academic and co-curricular accomplishments, including serving as captain of the football and baseball teams and playing a leading role on the Huntington robotics team that once again reached the FIRST World Championships in Detroit. He, too, is a Distinguished Senior after compiling a sterling academic record. He will be attending Rutgers University, where he plans to study aerospace engineering.
In addition to being a leading figure in the world of international finance, Mr. Pettit found time to coach youth lacrosse, soccer and basketball. He was one of the founders of the Cold Spring Harbor-Huntington Youth Lacrosse Club. The former Blue Devil star and Army great was inducted into the Long Island Metro Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1994.
“This scholarship commemorates his legacy while supporting worthy Huntington High School athletes who have distinguished themselves by virtue of their achievement, exceptional leadership skills and promising potential to succeed,” Ms. Pettit Breingan said. “I would like to state that our committee as a whole was immensely impressed by all the students that applied this year. We truly enjoyed hearing about the commitment and passion the applicants had for Huntington High School.”
Mr. Pettit was also a key contributor to cancer research. He was among those who helped organize the Dorothy Rodbell Cohen Foundation for Sarcoma Research, which has provided millions of dollars in grants over the years.
Huntington seniors prize the Pettit scholarship, which honors a man who will always be remembered for excellence at the high school.