Bill with one of his early robotic/artificial intelligence projects.
William T.G. Litant
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, Bill Litant is the product of a mixed marriage — a mother from the Bronx, N.Y., and a father from Dorchester, Massachusetts.
The first indication that Bill would eventually find a place in aerospace communication came in 1958 when, at age seven, he completed his first book, “Manned Rocket to Pluto,” a tale of earthmen’s first expedition to what was then the ninth planet, where they encounter Frankenstein’s monster, a race of frozen robot-humans, and a mad scientist who becomes so much madder that he literally explodes.
In his senior year in Lexington (Massachusetts) High School, Bill was named editorial page editor of the school paper. He resigned when the administration took issue with a column exposing the school's seemingly innocent National Honor Society Bookstore as a front for a prostitution racket. Bill launched a competing newspaper, The Pupils Eye. He sold a few copies, mostly to relatives. He was also elected president of the Detention Club.
While attending Syracuse University, Bill landed a job at a local radio station as a newscaster on the coveted 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. shift. It was on December 9, 1969 that upstate New York learned from him that Charles Manson, the "wild-haired, hypnotic leader of a wandering band of occult-oriented hippie types," (AP's words) would be “indikted” (Bill's word) on murder charges.
In 1970, at the recommendation of his good friend Rhonda Schwartz (today, ABC News chief investigative producer), Bill transferred to Emerson College in Boston where he majored in communications and film, and minored in English and photography. His chum, fellow Emerson student Jay Leno, gave him rides to school in Rolls Royces and Citroen SMs belonging to the car dealer where Jay worked. The coming and going of these luxury autos in Bill's blue-collar Somerville neighborhood impressed the locals, who were proud that he and his roommates obviously worked for organized crime.
At Emerson he cut his teeth in film under the tutelage of Vin DiBona (producer: "MacGyver," “Funniest Home Videos”), who inspired Bill, commenting on his early work, "Maybe you learned something." Bill was also shooting film at WBZ-TV and teaching at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Mass.; a modern art museum where one hears whispered in the galleries, “Did a grownup do that?”
Bill's Emerson film production team won numerous awards. He was among the first Emerson students to receive the then new BFA degree (“A what?” they ask him at MIT). Following college, Bill worked as a photographer for several documentary film companies before joining Raytheon as a media specialist contracted to the US Department of Transportation. His filmography from that period includes the now cult classics “Stapleton Airport Wake Vortex Avoidance,” “Strobe Lights: What Can’t They Do?” and “Your New Friend, the Highway Crash Barrier.” Simultaneously, he was writing for newspapers and magazines, including The Boston Globe where his mentors John White and the late Doug Crockett taught him the importance of cynicism and alcohol.
After a stint at Northeastern University as a master’s in education candidate, Bill was hired as a teacher, and then communications director, with the Boston Museum of Transportation (aka Larz Anderson Auto Museum) where he learned to crank start a car, operate a steam engine, and fall off a high-wheel bicycle.
In 1982, the state Executive Office of Transportation and Construction solicited him to handle media at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority where he was instructed to “suppress the news.” He then went to the Highway Department’s press office where he led an anti-pollution project. In honor of then Governor Mike Dukakis's wife, who championed the cause, he named the program “Kitty’s Litter.”
The course Bill would take for the next 15 years was charted in 1986 when every attorney in Massachusetts awoke simultaneously one morning with the stunning realization that people don’t like lawyers. They directed the state bar association to hire Bill and ordered him to make people like lawyers. While he never achieved that mandate, he did have many successes including launching the largest circulation legal newspaper in New England and the country’s first legal newspaper for children; producing a radio program, which aired on 22 stations; and editing a book on legal journalism, which was used in four journalism schools. And, eventually, the lawyers realized that they don't care if anyone likes them.
In the spring of 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Aeronautics and Astronautics Department learned that Bill Litant can both fly an airplane and spell (although not simultaneously) — a skill combination not otherwise represented at the Institute. So, they presented him with an exciting offer: to become the department’s first communications director. This would enable Bill to combine his lifelong interests in communications and aerospace. And, Bill knew that working with academic faculty instead of lawyers, he would no longer be tormented by towering egos and unfathomable language. In addition to directing AeroAstro communications, he is the communications director for PARTNER, an FAA/NASA-sponsored research collaborative focusing on mitigating aviation's environmental impact, and communications advisor to (and former outreach director of) the CDIO Initiative, a 90+-university worldwide engineering education collaboration.
Bill is a machinery and vehicle enthusiast. He has flown planes, taught sailing, restored tractors and road graders, driven many types of vintage cars and trucks, and operated trolleys and electric locomotives. He has completed a program in steam locomotive engineering, and has studied blacksmithing. He is an avid motorcyclist, having ridden since 1965 (legally, since 1975). He owns an award-winning 1959 BSA A10 Golden Flash, 1969 BSA B25 Starfire, and a 2005 Triumph Bonneville. Bill is president and a member of the board of directors of the BSA Owners' Club of New England Inc. and reputedly associated with a shadowy organization known as the Fez Monkey's Motorcycle Club. He is a fan of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Dire Straits, Emmylou Harris, Mel Torme, The Band, The Straits, and still occasionally plunks on his 1963 Gibson J-45 he's had since 1968.
After residing for a number of years in a haunted 19th century mansion where his wife was the administrator and ghostbuster, Bill now lives about 30 miles west of Boston. He has two sons — a college dean and a graduate student in art school — who, upon reading this page, changed their names, moved, and left no forwarding addresses. Bill spends every spare moment possible at his Fortress of Solitude in the small coastal village of New Harbor, Maine.
Bill’s goals are to finish the never-ending restoration of his 1969 BSA, write a funny novel, and, while they're out, dig up his neighbors' yards with antique construction equipment.