David Hirschhorn, 88, executive, philanthropist

September 08, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

David Hirschhorn, retired chairman of the board and former president of American Trading and Production Corp. who was active in numerous Jewish and philanthropic organizations, died Wednesday at Sinai Hospital from complications of Parkinson's disease. The longtime Pikesville resident was 88.

Mr. Hirschhorn was born in Prague and arrived with his family at Ellis Island in New York harbor, July 4, 1922.

"He always said his first memory of the United States was of watching fireworks and believing they were celebrating his family's arrival," said a son, Michael J. Hirschhorn of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. Hirschhorn was raised in Newark, N.J., and worked as an office boy at Ronson Corp. while taking evening courses at Rutgers University. He later transferred to New York University, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in business.

During World War II, he joined the Army Air Corps and attained the rank of lieutenant while serving with the 9th Troop Carrier Command in Europe.

After the war, he returned to Ronson and rose through the ranks to vice president and assistant to the president. From 1953 to 1958, he owned and operated a management consulting firm in Newark.

In 1955, Mr. Hirschhorn married Barbara Evelyn Blaustein, whose father, Jacob Blaustein, was a co-founder with his father, Louis Blaustein, of the American Oil Co. in Baltimore in 1910. Her father was also a co-founder in 1931 of American Trading and Production Corp. in 1931.

When he was hired by his father-in-law in 1958, Mr. Hirschhorn's role was to find ways to diversify ATAPCO from oil and gas exploration and development and marine transportation into manufacturing interests.

Mr. Hirschhorn remained on the company's board until shortly before his death.

"When I went for my interview with David, the headhunter said to play it straight," G. Henry Koether III, executive vice president and ATAPCO chief financial officer, recalled yesterday. "I had a grand time during the interview and finally we got to the point when he asked me about my weaknesses. Then the phone rang.

"When he came back, I said, `I hope you forgot your question,' and he said, `I hope you've had time to think of an answer.'"

Mr. Koether added: "He was a gentleman and very serious about business, and if there were a mistake on page 57, he'd find it. He was very diligent, yet he had a great sense of humor."

Mr. Hirschhorn shared his father-in-law's interest in international and philanthropic matters.

"He joined Mr. Blaustein, for example, on an official mission to Israel at the invitation of the Israeli government in 1966. He referred to their meetings with former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, foreign minister Abba Eban and other senior Israeli officials as among the defining moments of his life," his son said.

Mr. Hirschhorn served on the boards of many local, national and international philanthropic organizations committed to human rights, inter-religious understanding, and religious pluralism among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

"There has always been a general feeling in my family," Mr. Hirschhorn said in a 1987 interview with Connections, a company newsletter, "that if you are fortunate enough to be healthy and economically secure, you have an obligation to help improve the quality of life for others."

Organizations that Mr. Hirschhorn had been active with for years included the American Jewish Committee, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies and the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.

"He had a unique view of religious pluralism and for people to get along. He did a lot through the years to address this issue," said Charles F. Obrecht, a board member of the Baltimore-based Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies.

"Every so often we find people who are genuinely filled with humility and a gentle graciousness that comes from something deep within the soul. David is such a person," he said.

Mr. Obrecht added that Mr. Hirschhorn's leadership with the organization was marked by "wisdom, commitment, a sense of responsibility and always-on-the-mark judgment that he brought to interfaith work."

He was a former president of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, and from 1986 until his death was president of the David B. and Barbara B. Hirschhorn Foundation.

Locally, he had been a trustee of the Baltimore Community Foundation, Baltimore Hebrew University, Baltimore Jewish Council, Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education and the Commission on Jewish Education for North America.

Other organizations that Mr. Hirschhorn was involved with included Jewish Family and Children's Service, Sinai Hospital, Park School, Walters Art Museum and the Wilmer Eye Institute.

"My father's passion for and sense of obligation to his many years of business, community, and philanthropy absolutely dominated the structure of his life," said his daughter, Deborah H. Vogelstein of Pikesville.

An avid tennis player, Mr. Hirschhorn enjoyed the sport for 65 years, family members said.

Mr. Hirschhorn was a longtime member of Temple Oheb Shalom, 7310 Park Heights Ave., where services will be held at 10 a.m. today.

In addition to his wife, son and daughter, survivors include another son, Daniel B. Hirschhorn of Roland Park; another daughter, Sarah H. Shapiro of Pikesville; a brother, Isidor Hirschhorn of Maplewood, N.J.; and 15 grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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