1986 Richard E. Heckert
As CEO of DuPont in the late 1980s, Richard E. Heckert (1924-2010) involved the company in fast-growing businesses like electronics and life sciences while safeguarding more traditional chemical markets. Heckert was trained as a chemist at Miami University in Ohio and worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. He earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Illinois in 1949 and joined DuPont’s Chemical Department the same year.
Heckert climbed the managerial ranks through the Chemical, Film and Plastics Departments and took over the Fabrics and Finishes Department in 1969. In that capacity he made the decision to terminate the production of Corfam, which had failed despite heavy investment in technology and consumer research.
In 1973 Heckert was appointed to the Executive Committee and sought to remedy the sluggish corporate performance caused by increasing competition and rising energy and raw material costs. He advised that the company cut back research and development and focus on developing existing businesses. After he became CEO in 1986, Heckert adopted a strategy of investing resources in areas where the company excelled, retreating from weak sectors and moving into more promising ones. He reorganized DuPont’s electronics, imaging and medical products ventures and consolidated its automotive products operations. He also stepped up the company’s attention to marketing, instituting an annual corporate marketing excellence award. Heckert retired from DuPont in 1989.