Dixon, a man of neatly structured schedules, doesn't like surprises. He does like watching the local news on television at 6 p.m., the national news at 6:30, having cocktails at 6:45 and dinner at 7:30. He doesn't like to party along the Main Line and he has few close friends. When he goes to restaurants, he goes where he is known. Bob Bruce, vice-president for development at Widener, says of Dixon, "He works very hard to use his money properly, and Philadelphia is a lot better off for it." Few dispute that, for Widener-Dixon money cuts a wide swath, in ways big and small.
Example: A fireman was killed and Dixon promptly sent a $17,000 check to pay off the man's mortgage.
Example: A piece of sculpture—the word LOVE—had been on loan to the city and on display in Kennedy Plaza. But the sculptor, Robert Indiana, wanted it back or, in lieu of that, $45,000. Dixon stepped forward, said he'd pay $35,000, and thus a typical Dixon-style compromise was struck. "I like it," he explains. "A lot of other people liked LOVE. And I couldn't imagine the city coming up with the money to pay for it." But even that didn't make everyone happy. A letter to the editor of one paper said, "If Dixon wants to do something for the city, why doesn't he lower ticket prices instead of giving $35,000 to buy a damn sculpture?"
Not long ago Dixon was looking for educational institutions to be-friend. Living in a huge house ("When I asked a friend of mine who had 10 kids if he'd like to buy it and he said it was too big, I knew I was in trouble") and anxious to get rid of it, he offered it to the University of Pennsylvania. The university said if he would include $35,000 a year for five years for upkeep, they might be interested. Whereupon Dixon called Temple University and had lunch with the president, who was delighted long before coffee was served to accept the house. It is now the Eleanor Widener Dixon Conference Center. Dixon subsequently has made substantial contributions to Temple in time and money. Already this year the George D. Widener Trust has given more than $2 million. Penn no longer interests Dixon.
Last September, after one of Dixon's horses, Jet Run, won the American Gold Cup, a premier show-jumping event, Fitz leaped to his feet shouting, "Holy cats in the outhouse." It was an unguarded moment of excessive exuberance, such as he might exhibit following an Erving slam dunk. "I can really make an ass of myself," Fitz Dixon says, "but I'm a hell of a fan." And that self-portrait is the bleeping truth.