I am very sorry to report the passing of Dr. Thomas F. Hitzelberger, Emeritus Professor of Business.
Tom came to SOU in 1968 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Regis College in Denver, Colorado and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Upon arriving in Ashland, he took on the task of starting a marketing program. By the time he retired in 1999, that program, through his leadership and with the help of a team of dedicated colleagues, grew to be one of the largest on campus and established an outstanding record of success. Tom also founded the local collegiate chapter of the American Marketing Association, which was named the National Small College Chapter of the year in 1984-85. For many years, the chapter hosted a High School Marketing Skills Competition which brought high school teams to Ashland from throughout Oregon to compete for the Outstanding High School Marketing Program Award.
As a teacher and mentor, he changed the lives of countless students and colleagues, not only helping them reach their academic objectives, but also providing encouragement and guidance in pursuit of their career ambitions and other life goals. He put the needs of students first, and he took great pride in the number of marketing graduates who went on to successful careers with companies throughout the Northwest and beyond. In the words of Joan McBee, Emerita Professor of Business, “Dr. Hitzelberger turned me on to marketing. I came to SOU to major in Accounting, but after one class with Dr. Hitzelberger, I changed my major. In 1983, I thought about dropping out of college, but he talked me into staying. He was like a second dad to me. A year later, my dad died, and Dr. Hitzelberger was there for me. He helped me see that it was okay to ask for an incomplete and take a break. When I got hired at SOU in 1997, he helped me learn how to navigate the system as a faculty member and gave me endless advice on marketing my program. It didn't matter that we were colleagues instead of teacher/student, I still called him Dr. Hitzelberger instead of Tom out of respect. I would have never had the career I did without him.”
Another former student mentored by Dr. Hitzelberger, Amre Husseini, would go on to start his own companies in marketing communications. In an article on SOU’s Alumni Relations website, Amre cites Dr. Hitzelberger as an inspiration and recalls that he “was an amazing teacher and advisor. He pushed me to be at my very best as a student. I was in his office almost every day, even on days I did not have his classes. That doesn’t happen at large research institutions.” After Amre’s graduation, Dr. Hitzelberger helped him get his first job selling advertisements with the Ashland Daily Tidings.
Outside the classroom, Tom served for twenty-two years as the public address announcer for our men’s basketball program, and he was known far and wide as “the voice of southern Oregon.”
Standing six foot, nine inches tall, Tom was a towering presence on campus in more ways than one during his thirty-one years with Southern Oregon University. He will be missed by many former students, colleagues, and friends.
His family plans to hold a celebration of life in Medford later this spring. More details will be shared as they become available.
SOU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs