Eulogy for Jerry: Plastics leader, advocate, enthusiast

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: January 25, 2013 2:07 pm ET
Updated: January 25, 2013 3:35 pm ET

Jerry Heckman eulogy

Image By: Rich Williams

Related to this story

Topics Legal, Government & Legislation, Obituaries, Plastics Hall of Fame
Companies & Associations American Plastics Council, Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., American Chemistry Council, American Plastics Council (APC)

Jerry Heckman had been a key leader in the plastics industry for nearly 60 years — quite an accomplishment for someone who, as his Plastics Hall of Fame profile notes, "never invented a plastic product or application."

The truth is that Jerry was a lawyer — an extraordinary lawyer, to be sure. But he identified with, and embraced, the plastics industry, and all the people and companies out there creating new products and applications. And he did so with tremendous enthusiasm.

Jerry died Jan. 21 at age 85. Since he was so well-known in some corners of the industry — especially with some of our "senior" readers, and those active in the trade associations — I thought it would be nice to share some of my own recollections.

Heckman's relationship with the plastics industry dates back to 1954, when he was just a year out of Georgetown law school and he met Bill Cruse, known as "Mr. Plastics," who was then the first first full-time CEO for the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.

Of course my own relationship with Jerry doesn't go back nearly that long. I started at Plastics News in 1991, and he was one of the first people I met who was part of the plastics industry. I visited Washington to say hello to all the trade association bigwigs — it was my first trip for PN.

Adam Lashinsky, then our Washington bureau chief (and now an award-winning writer for Fortune magazine) arranged for a sit-down with Jerry. By that point Jerry was already in the Plastics Hall of Fame, and he knew all the major players in the industry. Jerry surprised me right away when he talked candidly about the personalities who were leading the industry's key companies and trade associations. I remember walking out the door of Jerry's office and sharing a smile with Adam.

Jerry started to call me regularly when I began to write most of the newspaper's weekly editorial columns. He offered historical perspective on just about any issue. Do you think plastic product bans are a new phenomenon? Jerry had been dealing with them since the 1950s. Chemical safety? He was recognized internationally as an expert.

Jerry wrote many columns over the years praising our coverage. He didn't like everything, though. He made it

clear to me when he didn't like a story, or an editorial, or even one of our reporters. I imagine that he treated others in the industry the same way. But it didn't bother me. Perhaps it was the way he offered criticism, which most of the time seemed fair. Jerry understood how newspapers worked — a point he repeated more than once.

A while back, when SPI and the American Plastics Council were feuding over a variety of issues, Jerry tried to help mend fences. It took years for that situation to improve, but I'm sure he took some comfort in the fact that the industry is more united today than it has been in at least 20 years.

Let's leave the last word for that Hall of Fame profile — the one noting that Heckman never invented a plastic product or application.

The rest of the sentence really sums it up: "... he has certainly been as creative as any inventor in his work in building and maintaining a business environment that has permitted the stupendous growth achieved by the industry."

Don Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of "The Plastics Blog."


Comments

Eulogy for Jerry: Plastics leader, advocate, enthusiast

By Don Loepp
Editor

Published: January 25, 2013 2:07 pm ET
Updated: January 25, 2013 3:35 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Sumitomo Bakelite buying injection molder Vaupell Holdings

April 24, 2014 7:37 pm ET

Private equity firm H.I.G. Capital LLC of Miami has entered into a definitive agreement to sell plastics processor Vaupell Holdings Inc. to Sumitomo...    More

Image

Chicago City Council committee approves plastic bag ban

April 24, 2014 7:11 pm ET

Chicago is poised to become the next major U.S. city to enact a ban on single-use plastic bags after a City Council committee vote on April 24.    More

Image

Plastics News Now: Simpsons go Lego, Pharrell Williams gets into recycled plastic

April 24, 2014 8:45 am ET

Lego has teamed up with "The Simpsons" for a special episode, we see the trends at the International Home + Housewares Show and musician Pharrell...    More

Zimmer buying Biomet in $13 billion deal

April 24, 2014 4:25 pm ET

Orthopedic device giant Zimmer Holdings Inc. is buying rival Biomet Inc. in a $13.35 billion cash and stock deal, the companies announced April 24.    More

Image

PolyOne says new Shanghai center will ease collaboration across segments

April 24, 2014 2:34 pm ET

PolyOne Specialty Engineered Materials is opening an innovation Center in Shanghai's Jinqiao development zone that will serve as its new Asia Pacific ...    More

Market Reports

Market Data Book - Rankings & Lists

A one-stop download of Plastic News' exclusive annual lists and processor rankings containing essential data including sales, employees, end markets, materials and more.
EXCLUSIVE EXCEL FEATURE: full mailing address details for available plant locations.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Mold Making and Tooling Review and Outlook 2014 North America

This report provides in-depth analysis of the mold and toolmaking market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats, the latest developments in production and labor and equipment trends impacting moldmakers.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events