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

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

Image

Brown signs California's plastic bag ban into law

September 30, 2014 1:38 pm ET

Gov. Jerry Brown (D) made it official today: plastic bags are banned across the entire state of California.    More

Image

New Hexcel plant will supply carbon fiber for Airbus A350 XWB

September 30, 2014 2:43 pm ET

Hexcel Corp. is investing $250 million on a new carbon fiber plant in France, with part of the production going into the future Airbus SAS A350 XWB.    More

Image

Welding equipment supplier Forward completes expansion

September 30, 2014 4:08 pm ET

Plastic welding equipment producer Forward Technology completed an expansion it predicts will help customers become more efficient and cut costs.    More

Image

Extreme Tool uses remote Michigan location to attract younger workers

September 30, 2014 3:47 pm ET

“I'm not saying there's anything wrong with being an old guy like me. But I do believe in the power of youth and reinvesting in training. The...    More

Image

LyondellBasell CEO Gallogly to retire

September 30, 2014 3:00 pm ET

James Gallogly, CEO of Houston-based polyolefins producer LyondellBasell Industries NV, on Sept. 29 announced plans to retire in 2015.    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 million dollar plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our industry analysis highlights macro industry trends and micro trends faced by companies that do business in Mexico. The report also provides key industry statistics and forecasts to anticipate future industry expansion.

Learn more

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

More Events