University News

Thomas Helm to Retire February 1

January 18, 2006

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MACOMB, IL - - Thomas Helm, a longtime Western Illinois University professor and administrator, will retire from the University, effective Feb. 1.

Western’s 2005 Phi Kappa Phi Fall Distinguished Lecturer, Helm joined the philosophy and religious studies faculty in 1974. He began teaching and serving in the Honors Council with the inception of the Honors Program in 1983. He was named head of the Honors Program in 1998, after serving a year as acting director; and from Aug. 2003-July 2004 he served as interim dean of Western’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Helm officially retired from his position of director of the Honors College Dec. 31, 2005.

He was instrumental in transitioning the Honors Program to the Illinois Centennial Honors College, which took place during the University’s Centennial Celebration in 1999-2000. Under his leadership the Undergraduate Research Day and Pre-Law Symposium were established; an Honors academic adviser was hired; the Honors program was instituted for WIU-Quad Cities students; and the interdisciplinary studies program and the debate team have been administratively assigned to the Honors College.

“It was as privilege to work with so many outstanding colleagues and to have had the luxury of guiding the honors program with its exceptional students,” Helm said.

Helm was the Western Illinois University Faculty Lecturer in 1994, the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Service Award recipient (1993) and the recipient of three Faculty Excellence Awards (1995, 1993, 1990).

He received an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, an S.T.B. from Harvard University and his B.A. from Earlham College.

Helm has written more than 60 articles, reviews and professional papers. His book “The Christian Religion: An Introduction” (Prentice Hall, 1991) has been widely used as a college text.

Helm was the recipient of a University Fellowship at The University of Chicago and a Meadville Fellowship from Meadville-Lombard Theological School. He also spent a summer as a Junior Fellow at the Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Duke and the University of North Carolina, and is a Fellow in The Society of Values in Higher Education.

He served two three-year terms on the board of the Illinois Humanities, was a member for the Council’s executive board and served as the Council’s vice chair (1994-95). He was also president of the American Academy of Religion, Midwest Region (1978-80) and chair of arts, literature and religion planning and programs for the American Academy of Religion (1979-80).

Helm plans to “take a sabbatical” for the first months of his retirement, to catch up on reading, prepare a couple of lectures that he has committed to present next fall and begin sketching an outline for a book that he plans to write. He will join his wife, Virginia, who is provost and vice chancellor at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, and will divide his time between there and Chicago, where the couple has a condo on the lake front.

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