A Remembrance of Dick Heckert of DuPont, Former NAM Chairman

By January 21, 2010Innovation

Today’s Wall Street Journal reminds us of the passing of Richard E. Heckert, former chairman and CEO of DuPont, whose accomplishments as a research chemist risen to corporate leader testify to the companies and careers built on scientific smarts meshed with hard work.

Heckert was hired by DuPont in 1947 and rose through the ranks. From the WSJ:

As a Du Pont vice president in the 1970s, Mr. Heckert helped oversee the largest chemical research budget in the country. He became CEO and chairman of Du Pont in 1986.

As leader of a firm that sold products around the globe, Mr. Heckert was often quoted on issues of U.S trade imbalances. In 1988, he was named chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers.

In a 1987 profile, Fortune described Mr. Heckert as “a 6-foot-3, 220-pound, friendly bear of a boss,” with 14EEEE shoes. He retired in 1989.

Mr. Heckert was raised in Oxford, Ohio, where his German-immigrant father was a professor of education at Miami University and taught at associated McGuffey High School. There, Mr. Heckert played tight end under Weeb Ewbank, who went on to coach the Colts and the Jets in the NFL.

Heckert was passionate about the outdoors and conservation, chairing the Nature Conservancy from 1989-95. He also endowed a chair at the University of Illinois-Urbana, now known as the Richard E. Heckert Chair in Chemistry.

Ellen Kullman, DuPont’s chair and CEO paid tribute to Heckert: “All who knew Dick remember him for his genuine warmth and good humor,” said Ellen Kullman, DuPont chair and CEO.  “As a leader, he was direct and forthright.  He had high regard for DuPont’s values and traditions, and he encouraged every opportunity for future growth and innovation. “

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