ECONOMIST – BANKER – PROFESSOR
Born: March 7, 1927 Passed Away: September 23, 2017
Born in Philadelphia of immigrant parents from Eastern Europe who met in Philadelphia, Dr. Heebner graduated from Philadelphia's Northeast High School in 1945. He was an excellent student who earned the distinction of valedictorian of his class.
After service in the U.S. Navy in 1945-46 where he completed his officer training program at both Bates and Dartmouth Colleges, he went on to attend the University of Denver on the GI Bill of Rights. While at Denver, a professor "turned him on" to economics which led to a Bachelor of Arts degree in this field. Upon graduation, Heebner returned home to Philadelphia after receiving acceptance into the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Upon his arrival back home, it became clear that his love for economics was greater than that of law. This life-changing decision resulted in an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. Subsequent to his graduation, he left Philadelphia once again and went to teach economics for several years at the College of Wooster in Ohio. Gil returned home for good and joined Philadelphia National Bank (PNB) in 1945 where he served in various rolls within the organization. In the early 1960's, he was unexpectedly offered the opportunity to become PNB's first economist. Heebner also became the first economist among all Philadelphia banks. It was at this time that he resumed graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a Ph.D. in economics.
In 1952, Gil married Dorothy Kiler, an elementary school teacher who taught at both the Chandler School in Philadelphia and later at Pine Road School in Lower Moreland Township. She was a dedicated teacher for 30 years. The couple first met in second grade in northeast Philadelphia and were married for 65 years as of August 16, 2017. They traveled extensively in Europe, Great Britain, and Asia. Having no children, Gil and Dorothy maintained very close ties to their niece, two nephews, and their nine great nieces and nephews. An annual highlight was gathering with family at their summer home in Beach Haven, New Jersey, which they built together and enjoyed for 42 years.
As PNB's economist, Dr. Heebner kept management and staff informed of economic and financial developments and helped formulate budgets. He also had an important role outside of the bank giving speeches and writing numerous articles that were widely distributed. His book, Negotiable Certificates of Deposit: The Development of a Money Market Instrument, analyzed the behavior of banks and the money market under various economic and regulatory policies.
While on leave from the bank in 1971-72, Dr. Heebner served as Special Assistant to the Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers under Chairman Paul W. McCracken and Herbert Stein. He arrived for work at the council on August 16, 1971, the day that President Nixon imposed price and wage controls. "What a turbulent and exciting time to be in Washington," Heebner said. His wife took a leave from teaching and shared this experience with him.
Dr. Heebner took early retirement from PNB as Executive Vice President and Chief Economist to return to his initial calling as a teacher. He was appointed Distinguished Professor of Economics at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He retired from teaching at Eastern in 1997. "Students enjoyed his teaching because he brought into the classroom examples from his real world experiences," said his wife.
Dr. Heebner engaged in a wide range of professional and community activities. The Northeast High School Alumni Association awarded him the Alumni Service Award in 1995, and his name was added to the Northeast Wall of Fame. At the bank, he was Chairman of the Public Responsibility Committee, and he also served the City of Philadelphia for five years on the Investment Advisory Board of Pensions.
His leadership in professional organizations included, but was not limited to: President of the National Association for Business Economics, Chairman of the Council of Business Economists, and Chairman of the Economics Advisory Committee of the American Bankers Association. He was a member of the Union League of Philadelphia and was included in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
As his niece said, "My uncle was a scholar with a kind and generous spirit who lived a life of integrity. He was a real 'gentle' man in every sense of the word."
In addition to his wife, he is also survived by his nephews, David P. Wuestner, Ed.D. and Col. Scott G. Wuestner US ARMY (Ret.), his niece, Laura Anthony, and their families.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 AM on Monday, October 9, 2017 in the Auditorium of Rydal Park, 1515 The Fairway, Rydal, PA. A reception will follow the service. Interment in Sunset Memorial Park will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to Cornerstone Christian Academy, P.O. Box 5520, Phila., PA 19143 (www.cornerstonephiladelphia.com/get-involved/Donate.cfm.)