His license plate number was UNH 1. “I’ve never met anyone more proud to be a UNH graduate than Bill Pizzano,” says Amy Sheehan, athletic department administrative assistant, who worked with him toward the end of his university career.
Pizzano’s long relationship with the university got its start thanks to Bill’s mother, says his nephew Bob Pizzano. In 1944, an under-age Bill wanted to follow his siblings into the U.S. Navy. Concerned that he would never attend college, his mother refused to sign the necessary papers. Pizzano became the star quarterback on the Wildcat football team and was named to the All-New England Small College Team. Called to active duty in 1945, he was honorably discharged a year later and completed his UNH degree. He served as an officer in the Naval reserves for 37 years.
Together with his late wife, Hazel, Pizzano attended all but a handful of UNH football games, both home and away, for more than 50 years. “They never had children,” says Sheehan, “and they loved planning trips to wherever the football team was playing.” After retiring from the Massachusetts Department of Public Works, Pizzano began a second career as UNH director of alumni activities.
In his new role, he was dedicated to UNH athletes and non-athletes alike, say his friends and colleagues. He quietly helped those in need, sometimes long after they had left the university.
Kerry Sheehan ’91, was among those who benefitted from his kindness. Struggling freshman year with calculus, she was ready to drop out when a phone call changed her life. “Hi, I’m Bill Pizzano in the alumni office and I hear you’re having a bad time with calculus,” said a voice on the other end of the line. “Why don’t you come over and talk to me?”
In tears about being summoned to a campus office, Sheehan was soon put at ease. It turned out that her father and Pizzano had a mutual friend, and when Pizzano heard about her struggle, he decided to act. “You are not going to flunk calculus,” he told her. “We will do whatever it takes, including getting you a tutor.” Eyes twinkling, he added, “I’ll make you a bet that you’ll pass, and when you do you can buy me an ice cream at the Dairy Bar.” A friendship began that ultimately included many rounds of golf together before Pizzano’s death on February 14 in Topsfield, Mass.
UNH honored Pizzano with the Robert “Bo” Dickson Football Spirit Award and the Meritorious Service Award from the alumni association. He was inducted into the ROTC Hall of Fame, the UNH Hall of Fame and in 2007, he received the Profile of Service Award for his dedication to the university.
Toward the end of his life, when he could no longer attend football games, Pizzano counted on Amy Sheehan to call him after every quarter and let him know how the team was doing. His dedication to UNH football never wavered, she says, and when she visited him for the last time, he beckoned her close and whispered, “The stadium?” He was referring to UNH’s planned $25 million upgrade to Cowell Stadium, the progress of which he had been closely following. Says Sheehan, “It was almost as if he had to know that the plans were coming along before he could move on.”
Originally published in UNH Magazine—Spring/Summer 2015 Issue