Ghassan Hitto once held court as an information technology manager in a safe Texas office. Now he's halfway across the world, in charge of a corner of hell.
Hitto is the new head of the Syrian opposition's interim government.
He'll use his ample and savvy management experience -- honed by his years as an executive in the IT field in Dallas and his activist work for his native Syria and Muslims -- to administer the large swaths of territory seized by rebels from the Bashar al-Assad government during the raging civil war.
People who've worked with Hitto are proud of his achievement and say he'll do well.
Oday Shahin, a Muslim community leader in Dallas, said he thinks Hitto will seize the day during a "historic moment" for war-torn Syria. That's because he's sharp, forthright, passionate, inspiring, well-respected and a "consensus leader."
"He's one of those executives in a board room that impress you. He knows what he's talking about," Shahin said. "He's sacrificing his career. He's sacrificing his family. He's sacrificing his safety."
Hitto's life straddles the Middle East and the United States. He is a dual citizen of the United States and Syria.
Born in Damascus in 1963, Hitto spent much of his school and working life in the United States, first in Indiana and most recently in Texas.
He earned a bachelor's degree in computer science and mathematics from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and then a master's in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University.
For more then a decade, he worked as a senior executive at an IT firm in Dallas.
A passionate U.S. activist
He's married to Suzanne Hitto and they have four children. One of his sons, Obaida, has worked for the opposition in Syria and was hurt in a bombing there. Ghassan Hitto supports the efforts of his son, who had been intent on going to law school but decided to help families in Syria.
"My son Obaida consulted me at the beginning of the revolution, asking me to allow him to enter Syria to participate in the relief and first-aid work. With the difficulty of this situation, I agreed without hesitation."
"Now he is working with his fellow revolutionaries to transfer facts and to help people in distress and I am proud of him. Of course I wish from the almighty God to bring him safe to me and to return all Syrian youths safely to their families unharmed and victors," Hitto said recently.
During his years in Texas, Hitto was active in community affairs, working as a board member at a Muslim school, Brighter Horizons Academy, and the Islamic Service Foundation, a nonprofit "dedicated to establishing an educational institution conducive to an Islamic environment."
His wife teaches English at the academy and three of his children are graduates. The academy said that Hitto's "management and leadership skills" helped the groups and fostered their successes.
"During his time as a volunteer, we saw him as a practical man with great management experience. He was always open minded and open to debate. He conducted himself with the highest honesty and integrity," the academy said in a statement.
"His talent for bringing people together for the common good will be missed in our community. ... His management and leadership skills benefited our organizations tremendously," the academy said.
As the Arab Spring unfolded two years ago, Hitto threw himself into Syrian activism. He was a founder of the Syrian American Council, the Coalition of Free Syria and the Shaam Relief Foundation.
"Mr. Hitto was a pioneer to raise funds to send direly needed humanitarian aid to Syrians, as well as raise awareness of the events happening in Syria," the Shaam Relief Foundation said in a statement.
When he visited the region, he got involved with the opposition Syrian National Coalition and became the opposition's humanitarian aid commissioner, charged with allocating and distributing relief in the areas seized from the al-Assad government, Shaam Relief said.
Several months ago, he took a leave of absence from his IT work in Texas to focus on working with the National Coalition's Assistance Coordination Unit. That entity is responsible for forging ties with nongovernment organizations and increasing the flow of Syria-bound aid.
At a protest last year in Texas, Walk for the Child of Syria, Hitto's passion against the al-Assad government was on bold display.
He spoke proudly of his son's activities in the Syrian area of Deir Ezzor and passed along Obaida's perspective about the citizens' morale. He described the government's violence against children, and pleaded for help from the dozens who came out to listen.
"The Syrian people," he said, "are proud people. Asking for help is not in our nature. This is something new to us."