2012 Class | 1911-2005
Heltzer’s legacy at 3M spanned five decades. He came to be known as the “father of reflective material.” He joined 3M in 1933 with a metallurgical engineering degree from the University of Minnesota. He quickly gravitated to the firm’s mineral laboratory, where his interest in the field of optics and retro-reflectivity led him to join a fledgling team of 3M researchers working with glass bead optical elements to improve the visual characteristics and durability of traffic devices. The group’s pioneering work—first in pavement marking applications and later in reflective sign sheeting—led to the first fully reflective traffic sign being erected at a Minneapolis intersection in 1939.
He later oversaw production of what became known as “Scotchlite Reflective Sheeting,” and then served as vice president and general manager of the Reflective Products Division. In 1970, he was named chairman and CEO, and was credited with expanding 3M’s global reach and international growth.
Heltzer was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to the “President’s National Highway Safety Advisory Committee.” He held leadership positions at the Highway Users Federation, International Road Federation, National Safety Council, Automotive Safety Foundation, International Chamber of Commerce, and U.S.-USSR Trade & Economic Council.
He passed away in 2005 at age 94.