Thomas J. McHugh, who worked for 22 years as chief investment officer for Pitcairn Inc., died Saturday of congestive heart failure at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Mr. McHugh, 78, of Haverford, appeared to have a knack for landing in the right place at the right time, family members said. But he didn't wait for luck; he went after what he wanted, and celebrated his lot at every opportunity, they said.

He went to St. Joseph's University on a basketball scholarship, but when he grew tired of the sport, the school asked him to try baseball. He pitched the school's first solo no-hitter in May 1951; it was his first game on the mound, family members said.

Mr. McHugh went on to a successful career as a financial adviser and venture capitalist, returning to St. Joe's to serve nine years on the board of trustees.

"There's the glass is half empty and the glass half full," said Polly Richman, one of Mr. McHugh's five children. "My dad's glass was always overflowing."

Mr. McHugh advised some of the nation's wealthiest families on how to invest their fortunes. He worked for more than two decades for Pitcairn, the influential family whose fortune is tied to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Mr. McHugh chaired the finance and compensation committees at the Rouse Company, a Columbia, Md., group that built one of the earliest indoor malls in America in Cherry Hill, family members said.

When he retired at age 55 in 1986, he launched his own financial advisement group, McHugh Associates Inc., a company he sold this year.

In business and in his personal life, Mr. McHugh was known as a terse and direct man. His counsel to investors was pithy; family members say they still receive letters from investors who credit successful investments to Mr. McHugh's insight, and blame failures on their disregarding his opinion.

For Mr. McHugh, finance was personal. His father died when he was growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. Throughout his life, he helped guide family members dealing with the sudden loss of a loved one through the estate and financial planning processes, Richman said.

Mr. McHugh liked to repay favors, and he thought he owed St. Joe's a debt. As a trustee, he served as chairman of the finance committee and director of the Jewish-Catholic Institute.

Mr. McHugh was inducted into the university's baseball hall of fame in 2004.

"He excelled as a student athlete, and he continued his involvement at St. Joe's," said Don DiJulia, the university's athletic director. "He was loved and respected by all."

Mr. McHugh came to Philadelphia for college, but he stayed for his wife, Patricia Silcox McHugh, whom he met on a blind date during his senior year, Richman said. He didn't impress her at first - she found him somewhat aloof. He said he would call again, but she was doubtful, Richman said.

Soon after their date, Mr. McHugh and some of his friends were in a car accident on City Line Avenue. Mr. McHugh, who suffered a broken jaw, asked his friends to go to Silcox's home and ask her to visit him.

Mr. McHugh is survived by his wife; children Thomas J. McHugh Jr., Richman, Josie Quigley, Ned McHugh and Allegra Cosgrave; and 14 grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. John Vianney Church, 350 Conshohocken State Rd., Gladwyne. Relatives and friends may call at the church starting at 9:30.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Joseph's University, c/o Development Office, 5600 City Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19131-1395; or Rosemont School of the Holy Child, 1344 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010.

Contact staff writer Joelle Farrell at 610-627-0352 or at jfarrell@phillynews.com.