By Sam Rubin
Elm Staff Writer
On Wednesday, Nov. 13, Washington College students, faculty and friends gathered on the walkway between William Smith Hall and the Clifton Miller Library for the memorial service of former economics professor Dr. Andrew Helms, who passed away on Nov. 12, 2017.
“I have to say, on behalf of the entire WC community and, in particular, the economics department, how enormously grateful we are to Andrew’s parents, his family and his friends for encouraging him,” Young Ja Lim Professor in Economics Dr. Robert Lynch said. “What he gave us was an enormous gift. He was a fabulous teacher and a wonderful colleague.”
Dr. Helms’ high energy and unconventional behavior made him a joy to have in the classroom. His kind and caring personality also made him adored by not only friends and family but by students and colleagues as well, according to memorial speakers.
Dr. Lynch said that Dr. Helm’s kindness was exemplified when Dr. Lynch opened up to him about a fear. He was struggling to drive home after meetings because of how tired he was. Dr. Lynch was afraid of falling asleep at the wheel and hurting himself or someone else. After talking to Dr. Helms about his worries, Dr. Helms told him that they would fix his problem.
After a few months, Dr. Lynch realized that Dr. Helms would call him after every late meeting while he was driving home.
“If you know Andrew, you know you could not fall asleep talking to him because he was funny, interesting, thoughtful, [and] exciting,” Dr. Lynch said. “When he said ‘we are going to fix that,’ he really meant we were going to fix that.”
Hodson Trust Professor of Economics Dr. Lisa Daniels shared some statements from Dr. Helms’ past students.
“Many of [the alumni] wrote to us to tell us how much they appreciated Andrew and loved his teaching,” Dr. Daniels said.
As Dr. Daniels read the alumni statements aloud, their glowing remarks reflected Dr. Helms’ love for teaching, his ability to connect with students, and his ability to bring real life application into the classroom.
“Dr. Helms was the type of person who left an impression. He was always so upbeat and excited about economics. This was reflected in his teaching as he bounced around at the front of the classroom, covered in chalk dust of multiple colors,” wrote one alumnus.
Another alumnus reflected on Dr. Helms’ reputation as a fun, if unconventional, professor.
“Before I even had a class with Professor Helms, I heard all about the eccentric professor who ran all over his classroom and canceled class for two weeks when his dog went missing,” the alumnus wrote. “He would even bring his dog into the classroom and put down different types of treats to show the dog’s indifference between the types of dog treats.”
Speakers at the memorial depicted Dr. Helms as an innovative and effective educator. He was beloved by students, friends, family and colleagues.
WC planted a tree and installed a bench between William Smith Hall and the Clifton Miller Library corner garden in loving memory of Dr. Helms. On the bench, a quote from Dr. Helms is inscribed, saying, “The world isn’t black and white and Economic models shouldn’t be either.”
“He was really…an integral part of our department,” Dr. Daniels said. “We enjoyed his friendship, his willingness to help, and his incredible sense of humor.”