Former City Councilman Bob Hutchings Dies at 91

Longtime Rye resident and two-term Rye City Councilman Robert Hutchings, who had a long and storied career as an advertising executive, died January 22, 2017 in Northfield, Illinois.

Born in Utica, N.Y., he was the son of Walter F. and Zelda (Thomas) Hutchings. He went to Attica High School, where he received the American Legion Award of Merit for outstanding ability in leadership, scholarship, and athletics. 

During World War II, Mr. Hutchings served in the Army Air Corps as an AAF Cadet, with pilot and bombardier qualifications, and flew as Assistant Engineer on B-17 Transition Flights at Hendricks Field, Sebring, Fla. He received the American Defense Ribbon, and the Good Conduct Medal. 

He attended Syracuse University on the GI Bill, from which he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1950; he majored in Radio Administration & Speech and minored in Sociology.

A 49-year resident of Rye, Bob, as he was known, was elected to the City Council in 1996. He served as the liaison to the Rye Recreation Commission, the Rye Cable Commission, and the Rye Free Reading Room. He was known mostly for his work as a producer of government informational TV programs on local channel RCTV. He retired from the City Council after serving two elected terms.

He began an illustrious career in marketing and advertising from simple beginnings, selling Fuller Brushes door-to-door in college. He later took a sales position at IBM, and became IBM Branch Manager in Scranton, Pa. Quickly noticed by Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, he was named Manager of Advertising and Promotion for IBM Office Products in 1955. There, he was responsible for naming and launching the famous Selectric Typewriter, and won Advertising’s greatest honor, twice: a Clio Award in 1970 and 1973 for the Magnetic Card Selectric Typewriter and the Correcting Selectric Typewriter. 

In 1978, he joined IBM Instruments, an independent business unit, where he introduced one of the first computerized database systems for sales inquiries and lead handling. Three years later, he was promoted to IBM Corporate Advertising, as Director, and led the marketing team in the introduction of IBM’s first personal computer, code-named “Project Chess.” 

IBM loaned him in 1987 to the New York City Partnership, led by Mayor Ed Koch, to manage the NYC Summer Jobs ’87 advertising and promotion campaign, helping 46,000 inner-city teenagers ‘get their first break.’ 

He retired from IBM in 1989, after 39 years of service.

Mr. Hutchings served the Direct Marketing Association as a member of its Board of Directors for 13 years. He was Chairman of the Ethics Committee, Secretary of the Executive Committee, Chairman of the Education Committee, and founded the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation. He was a member of the Advisory Board of the New York University Center for Direct Marketing and served a similar role for the Graduate School of Direct Marketing at Northwestern University. He taught and lectured on many marketing subjects to audiences of all ages at Cornell University, Northwestern University, New York University, Pace University, University of Missouri, and Mercy College. 

Wallace G. Wilkinson, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, bestowed upon him a commission of “Kentucky Colonel” in 1988 for his work with Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute on a joint venture between IBM and NASA in the creation of an optical device to help patients with Macular Degeneration, a condition which rendered Bob legally blind since 1984.

He leaves his beloved wife of 66 years, Norma; his daughter Bette Anne Duffy and her husband Timothy; and a grandson, whom he considered his ‘best friend,’ Kevin Robert Duffy, all of Northfield, Ill. His sister, Orma Welker, of Attica, N.Y. predeceased him.

Services will be held at Saint Philip the Apostle Catholic Church in Northfield, Ill., on Saturday, February 4. Visitation begins at 9:30. The funeral will be held at 10:30. Interment will be held several days later at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Syracuse, N.Y. 



Donations in Mr. Hutchings’ memory may be made to Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, 600 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore MD 21287, for research and development toward the cure of Macular Degeneration.


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