May 7, 1945 – June 18, 2020
Lewis E. Hitchner passed away on June 18, 2020 at Intermountain Medical center in Murray, Utah after a short battle against kidney cancer. Lew was born in Philadelphia, PA to Lew and Becky Hitchner and grew up in Oak Lawn, Illinois and Media, PA. He was the oldest of three children and had two siblings, his brother Ken and his sister Sue. He was known as Lee by his family and Lew by his friends. He attended Nether Providence High School graduating in 1963. In 1962 and 1963, Lew was selected to participate in a high school program at the University of Pennsylvania where he was introduced to the world of computers “getting in on the ground floor”. He attended Dartmouth College graduating with Honors in 1967 with a major in mathematics and a minor in economics. It was at the Dartmouth Skiway where he was introduced to skiing which became a lifelong passion.
After Dartmouth, Lew attended the University of California, Berkeley where he received a Masters of Science in Operations Research in 1968. Lew returned to the East Coast and resided in the Wilmington DE area where he was employed by ICI America as an Operations Research analyst (1968-1972). Lew was very active in the Wilmington Ski Club making frequent trips to the mountains in Vermont and Utah as well as sailing trips to the Carribean. Having decided he loved the Wasatch Mountains, he picked up and moved to Utah. His life revolved around the activities of the Wasatch Mountain Club and he maintained many friendships there. For several years Lew studied and worked at the University of Utah in the Center for Remote Sensing and Cartography. He received his PhD in Computer Sciences in 1984.
Lew then moved to California and became a computer and information sciences professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz until 1988 and later at California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, CA for over 11 years. Although Lew did extensive research in his field, he truly loved working with his students and sharing his enthusiasm of computer graphics and virtual reality. He mentored dozens of students and contributed to many revisions and innovations to the Computer Science curricula. During his tenure at CalPoly he took a sabbatical year teaching at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
From 1988 through 1993 he was a scientist at the Research Institute for Advanced Computer Science (RIACS) at the NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA (1989-1993). There he was the technical developer of the Virtual Planetary Exploration project (VPE), an immersive VR system for virtual exploration of the planet Mars. After leaving NASA Ames, Lew held various positions in the VR industry including V.P. of R&D for Xtensory, Inc., consultant to Sense8, Corp., Member of the Technical Staff at Sterling Software, Inc., and author of "The Virtual Software Report" (for VR News).
But his heart was always in the Wasatch Mountains and after retiring in 2007, he moved back to the Salt Lake City area. The Wasatch became his new “office” where he spent most of his time either backcountry skiing or hiking solo or with his many friends. His last hiking trip was May 14, up the Mill B North Fork trail to the “Champagne Ledge”. Over the years, he took several extensive hiking trips to Bhutan, Italy, Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland and France, as well as numerous camping and hiking trips all over the western United States.
Lew was passionate about the environment and keeping in close touch with his family and friends. He was known for his extensive news letters and for sharing many (many) photographs of his adventures in the mountains all around the world with his friends and family. Lew was also known as quite the wine connoisseur.
Family was most important to Lew. He is survived by his brother Ken Hitchner and wife Lucinda of Moss Beach, CA, his sister Sue Hitchner of Northfield, MA and five nephews and nieces, Aleta, Liza, Kelly, Ted and Jack, as well as 3 great nieces and nephew, Maddy, Max and Somi. He was also close to his first cousins Jeff Venho and Patty Conklin and their families. Lew was the greatest uncle and unofficial family photographer. He will be missed by all.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
July 4, 2020
I was so shocked by Lew's death. Vicariously traveled, skied and hiked with him and saw his last post "from the office" in May. So there was no warning about his cancer or opportunity to tell him how wonderful he has been. How much he meant to us. He was my husband in our Senior play, OurTown. So happy to be in that role, because he was one of the nicest young men in our class .I also was part of the UP program with computers that helped me love them going forward. (That first computer was in a building the size of a computer field and maybe had 64K). Lost contact with Lew, until our parents were in White Horse in the nursing facility. I saw him and knew him immediately. RIP, Lew, you were an inspiration to me to get out an enjoy nature, You were so kind, inspirational and amazing. You will be missed. Ann Torregrossa