Mr. Julius W. Hegeler II, (’46) through the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation, pledged $250,000 over the next five years to the Danville Public School Foundation. The first $50,000 installment of this pledge was presented to the Foundation Board at its June, 2009, meeting.
Danville Public School Foundation Executive Director Bob Richard stated that Mr. Hegeler is more than just a donor - he is a personal friend and a friend to the Danville area. Many charitable groups in Danville and Vermilion County have benefited from the generosity of the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation. Richard stated, “Julius has a huge heart when it comes to Danville and we are blessed that the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation has stepped forward to help the Danville Public School Foundation.”
A 1946 graduate of Danville High School, Hegeler graduated from Millilkin University in 1950. After his graduation from college, Hegeler served with distinction as a jet fighter pilot in Korea, participating in 70 combat missions and earning the Distinguishing Flying Cross. In 1955, Hegeler returned to Danville and co-founded Peterson Filling and Packaging which became Peterson/Puritan, Inc., the world’s largest contract packager of chemical specialties with plants in Illinois, Georgia, Rhode Island, California, Canada, and affiliates in Mexico, South America, and Switzerland. Hegeler further explains that he and his brother, Edward (’43), the Peterson brothers (Harry and Bob), and Jack Shea “formed (the) Peterson Filling and Packaging Company which included the old Hegeler Zinc Company Rolling Mill Building on 11 acres of land.” Hegeler sold his interest in the concern to Corn Products Company in April, 1966, by an exchange of stock. Hegeler held this stock for many years until 1992 when he made the decision to utilize this capital to benefit others. In August, 1992, Hegeler formed the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation in order “to give to 501-c-3 organizations that are philanthropic, research, and educational in nature.” Hegeler founded the Foundation with a gift of 90% of his Corn Products stock. The Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation is the largest charitable foundation in Vermilion Co., IL.
Among the many projects that the Julius W. Hegeler II Foundation has funded is the renovation and restoration of his boyhood home, the Hegeler mansion at 1521 N. Vermilion. He has also supported the restoration of the Julius W. Hegeler I Home in LaSalle, IL. Recently, Hegeler’s generosity made the popular Polar Express activity possible for children during the annual Festival of Trees celebration at the David L. Palmer Civic Center.
Looking back at his years at DHS, Hegeler notes the positive influence of two of his teachers on his life – both industrial arts instructors: Mr. James H. Hawkins, head of the Manual Arts Department (1918-1951), and Mr. Paul Smoot (1942-1960), who taught Hegeler mechanical drawing. When asked what lessons he learned at DHS that had been helpful in his life, Hegeler responded: “To be creative in (my) thinking and to be able to visualize what a project would look like when it is completed. (Mr. Hawkins’ and Mr. Smoot’s) teachings helped (me) at Peterson Filling and Packaging in overseeing the renovation of the original plant building, in removing all the old Hegeler Zinc Company rolling mill foundations and furnaces for melting zinc slabs, installing rest rooms, the lunch room, and production equipment.” Hegeler added that his training at DHS was helpful in supervising the installation of water tower, gas, water, and sewer lines as well as three additions to the plant building and an addition to the main office. Hegeler considers his graduation from DHS on June 6, 1946, as his favorite memory of Danville High School. An athlete, Hegeler was a member of the DHS swim team.
Hegeler’s civic involvement is comprehensive over the last 50 years, including, but not limited to the following: United Way campaigns (1973 general chair), Vermilion County Museum Society board (former president), Danville Area Community College Foundation board (former president), Vermilion County War Museum board, Vermilion County Airport Authority board, YMCA board, plus many others. He received the AMBUCS First Citizen Award in 2001.
Julius W. Hegeler II was married to the late Bobette Steely (’43), daughter of Judge Harlin M. (’03) and Elizabeth Steely. They have three children: Alix Shreve Hegeler, an art teacher at Mt. Holyoke Community College; Harlin Steely Hegeler, a free lance artist in California; and Madelle Goodloe Hegeler, Boca Raton, FL.