Hepatitis B Foundation Mourns Loss of Co-Founder Paul Witte, Longtime New Hope Resident
Mr. Witte gave generously of his talents and resources to help create the Hepatitis B Foundation, a remarkable organization and a lasting tribute to a truly remarkable person.
Doylestown, Pa., Feb. 15, 2021 – The Hepatitis B Foundation announces with great sadness the passing of Mr. Paul Witte, 94, on Feb. 13. An award-winning industrial and product-design engineer, Paul never hesitated to share his talents and resources to help create the Foundation as an important advisor and generous philanthropist.
In 1991, Paul and his wife Janine worked with Tim and Joan Block to start the Hepatitis B Foundation to help a young family devastated by this serious liver disease. What began as a grassroots effort in their kitchen has today, 30 years later, become the nation’s leading nonprofit research and disease advocacy organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B, headquartered in Bucks County, Pa.
“The Foundation has become the global authority on hepatitis B and a strong, growing organization, which is a lasting tribute to Paul, a truly remarkable person,” Tim Block, President of the Foundation, said. “Paul will be remembered as an extremely creative person, and his extraordinary skills were evident in his professional life.”
Paul and Janine Witte
Paul received design awards from both Industrial Design magazine and the Museum of Modern Art for his work. As a product design engineer, Paul was responsible for the popular Head aluminum tennis racquets in the 1970s, when using the lightweight metal in racquets was a significant innovation.
During the 1980s, Paul focused his talents on the orthopedic industry. He joined a dynamic team with Dr. Michael Pappas and Dr. Frederick Buechel at Biomedical Engineering Trust in N.J. Over the next several decades, he designed orthopedic hip implants and eventually designed almost every other joint in the body as well.
“Paul was a uniquely talented individual, an extraordinarily generous person, warm, caring and a friend," Joel Rosen, Chairman of the Foundation's Board of Directors, said. "He will be deeply missed by me and all of us at the Foundation.”
Paul was born in Chuquicamata, Chile, where his father worked as an engineer for the Anaconda Copper Company. Their family returned to Scranton, Pa., and eventually to Philadelphia. Paul began engineering studies at Drexel University, which was interrupted by military service (he served in the Army Air Corp during World War II), then completed his studies at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts).
One of the best decisions Paul always liked to say he made was when he married Janine, whom he met while traveling to Corning, N.Y. They had a fairytale romance and lived a true love story in New Hope, Pa. They enjoyed 42 years as life partners and work partners in their product design and desktop publishing company, Originetics.
Paul was always designing and creating, his brain active, hands drawing and sketching out new ideas, even at social events. He also was one of the most selfless, generous people. He and Janine responded immediately to the story of a local family suffering from hepatitis B, even though they had no experience of their own with the disease. All they needed to hear was that hepatitis B was a major need and little was being done. With their active participation, the Foundation was created. Janine served as the first President and remained on the Board until 2018.
In addition to the many contributions of time, talent and insights Paul provided to the Foundation, he and Janine were major donors, funding the Witte Scholars and the Bruce Witte Lecture series.
The Witte Scholars program is for young, emerging scientists to work at the Foundation’s affiliated research arm, the Baruch S. Blumberg Institute. Anand Mehta, D. Phil., and Hai-Tao Guo, Ph.D., were two young scientists who started their careers as Witte Scholars. Today, Dr. Mehta is an endowed professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, studying the early detection of liver cancer and Dr. Guo is a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh, studying hepatitis B.
The Bruce Witte Lectureship, named in memory of Paul’s son who passed away as a toddler, brings world-famous scientists studying hepatitis B and liver cancer to give seminars to the Foundation and the Blumberg Institute. This year’s Bruce Witte Lecture will be given on Oct. 14 by Harvey Alter, M.D., Distinguished NIH Investigator, Emeritus, and 2020 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the hepatitis C virus (he also helped discover the hepatitis B virus more than 50 years ago).
If you wish to make a gift in Paul Witte's memory to the Hepatitis B Foundation, please click here to make an online donation or mail a check to: Hepatitis B Foundation, Attn: Paul Witte Memorial Gifts, 3805 Old Easton Road, Doylestown, PA 18902.