R. Heberton “Heb” Butler: A Loyal Pennsylvania Military College Alumnus and Widener Supporter

July 20, 2011

1949 class picture

Tom Brokaw called them “The Greatest Generation,” those men and women who struggled through the Great Depression, served their country in World War II, and went home to build a stronger, better nation. Robert Heberton “Heb” Butler was one of that generation’s finest examples.

Butler, a 1949 graduate of Pennsylvania Military College and one of the first wave of veterans to earn their degrees on the GI Bill, died on July 18. He was 87.

Heb, as he was known to his friends, was a regular at Widener University events. From Alumni Weekend to Veteran’s Day ceremonies, Heb and his good friend Big Fred Shahadi were always ready with a smile and a story.

Not only did Heb attend events, he helped organize them, and he served the university in so many other capacities. He served as president of the Widener-PMC Alumni Association from 1987 to 1990, and during that time represented the association on the Widener Board of Trustees. He also served as a class reunion volunteer, chairman of the President’s Council’s Bullock Society Committee, and a member of the PMC Museum Committee. In 1995, Heb received the Alumni Service Award from the university, and received a Lifetime Volunteer Award in 2008.


During World War II, Heb helped supply fuel to General Patton’s troops, and he celebrated victory over Nazi Germany with the throng of revelers on the Champs Elysees in Paris on V-E Day in My 1945. A year later, he was home in Swarthmore lugging a 150-pound box of tools for a mechanic.

“I figured there has to be a better way,” Butler told Widener Magazine in 2010. “I really didn’t have a burning desire to go to college when I got out of high school. We were working on coming out of the Depression, and there wasn’t a lot of money in the household. College really wasn’t talked about.”

The GI Bill gave Heb the opportunity to attend PMC, and Heb returned that contribution to his community and to Widener in more ways than can be measured. We are better nation and university because of him.

–Dan Hanson ’97, Director of Public Relations



  1. It saddens me to hear of the loss of Heb. He was a frequent visitor to the Alumni Office and always had a wonderful smile. He will be remembered most for sharing helpful historical information and wise consult. He will be missed.

  2. I’m so sorry to hear of Heb’s passing. He was a true asset to the University community. I attended Widener almost 50 years after Heb, and was always delighted to share stories with him. He was a wonderful, energetic, and friendly man who will be missed by the many whose lives he touched. May he rest in peace.

  3. Heb was my father’s first cousin and I was blessed to know him and his equally talented & vivacious mother. Thanks to Heb, I’m happy to say that that I’m friends with two of his delightful daughters who are among the several wonderful legacies he leaves behind. On behalf of my parents and my family, I extend our collective condolences, love, and prayers to Heb’s immediate family.

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