Dr. A. Gilbert Heebner, 90, of Rydal, an economist, banker, and professor, died Saturday, Sept. 23, of cancer in the Rydal Park Medical Center.
Dr. Heebner lived in Huntingdon Valley, Society Hill, and Devon before moving to Rydal Park, a senior community in Montgomery County, in the mid-2000s.
He especially liked living in Center City. “He was able to walk, rather than take the train, which was something he always wanted to do,” said nephew David P. Wuestner.
Born in Philadelphia of immigrant parents from eastern Europe, Dr. Heebner graduated from Northeast High School in 1945. He was an excellent student who earned the distinction of being valedictorian of his class.
Dr. Heebner, who was called “Gil” by friends, served in the Navy at the end of World War II. He completed officer training at Bates and Dartmouth Colleges. After an honorable discharge, he enrolled at the University of Denver on the GI Bill.
While there, one of his professors “turned him on” to economics, he told his family. He earned a bachelor of economics in 1948, and returned to Philadelphia, intending to go to law school at the University of Pennsylvania, which had accepted his application.
But once here, he decided his zest for economics superseded his love of the law. He matriculated at Penn and studied for a master’s degree in economics, finishing the degree in 1950.
After two years teaching economics at the College of Wooster in Ohio, Dr. Heebner returned home “for good,” his family said, and joined Philadelphia National Bank (PNB) in 1952 as a commercial lending officer.
Eight years later, Dr. Heebner was offered the position as PNB’s first economist. He jumped at the chance, and in accepting it, blazed a trail as the first bank-based economist in Philadelphia.
He went back to Penn, earning a doctoral degree in business and applied economics in 1967.
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 articles that were widely distributed. One dealt with “the Carter economics.” Another offered “six lessons in national economic policy.”
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 and 1972, Dr. Heebner served as special assistant to the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. He arrived for work at the council on Aug, 16, 1971, the day that President RichardNixon imposed price and wage controls.
“What a turbulent and exciting time to be in Washington,” Dr. Heebner wrote in notes intended for his obituary. His wife took a leave from teaching and joined him.
Dr. Heebner took early retirement from PNB as executive vice president and chief economist to return to his initial calling as a teacher. In 1987, he was appointed distinguished professor of economics at Eastern University, St. Davids. 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, Dorothy Kiler Heebner.
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.
He held leadership positions in numerous professional organizations including the National Association for Business Economics Council of Business Economists, and American Bankers Association. He was a member of the Union League of Philadelphia and the Sunday Breakfast Club.
The Heebners married in 1952. They first met in second grade in Northeast Philadelphia and were married for 65 years.
The couple traveled throughout Europe, Britain, and Asia. Although they had no children, they maintained close ties to their niece, two nephews, and nine great-nieces and great-nephews. Every summer, they hosted a family gathering at their vacation home in Beach Haven, N.J.
“My uncle was a scholar with a kind and generous spirit who lived a life of integrity,” said his niece, Laura Anthony. “He was a real ‘gentle’ man in every sense of the word.”
In addition to his wife, nephew, and niece, Dr. Heebner is survived by another nephew, retired Army Col. Scott G. Wuestner.
A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 9, in the Auditorium of Rydal Park, 1515 The Fairway, Rydal. Burial is private.