T. Christopher Pettit’s name is forever inscribed in granite as one of Huntington High School’s most spectacular scholars, leaders and athletes.
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.
Thomas Christopher Pettit as a Huntington senior.
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.”
Accepted into Harvard, Mr. Pettit chose West Point instead and following his graduation, he 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 his vacation home in 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 second one-time annual 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. Her voice was filled with emotion as she spoke.
“He had a genuine concern for the welfare and betterment of young people, which was evident throughout his life,” Ms. Pettit Breingan said. “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.”
Alyssa Sorensen captures 2019 scholarship
This year’s top Pettit scholarship of $10,000 was presented to Alyssa Sorensen, who is headed to Drexel University where she plans to study public health in anticipation of a career as a physician assistant.
“I am incredibly honored to have won this scholarship,” Ms. Sorensen said. “The Pettit family has done so much for the community and it really means a lot to receive this scholarship award.”
President of Young Leaders, a community youth development organization, a three-sport athlete with the Blue Devil soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams and vice-president of the high school’s student government, Ms. Sorensen also served as treasurer of Huntington’s National Honor Society chapter and won many honors and awards over the past four years, including the Welfare Council of Long Island’s Leadership Award.
“It was Alyssa’s significant amount of time, hard work and compassion that she gave to those around her that made her standout,” Ms. Pettit Breingan said. “She has demonstrated perseverance and outstanding character.”
Huntington Class of 2019 member Erika Varady received a one-time Pettit scholarship in the amount of $1,500 in recognition of her outstanding academic and co-curricular accomplishments. She plans to attend Worchester Polytechnic Institute and study aerospace engineering.
President of Huntington’s French Honor Society chapter, captain of the Blue Devil cross country and track and field teams and an All-American in the 3000m race-walk, Ms. Varady has been a member of the chamber choir and is also a Natural Helper, assisting classmates as they work through personal issues.
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.
“Fostered excellence and good sportsmanship”
“My father fostered excellence and good sportsmanship as a co-founder of a club lacrosse organization and as a coach of both lacrosse and soccer,” Ms. Pettit Breingan said. “He was also an avid sideline fan that my former teammates and friends will never forget. He knew everyone’s name and made sure everyone else did, too, as he cheered us on.”
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.
“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.”
Huntington seniors prize the Pettit scholarship, which honors a man who will always be remembered for excellence at the high school.