Ivy Tech Community College Southeast Chancellor James F. Helms announced he will retire from the college effective January 15, 2014. Helms will officially become Chancellor Emeritus at that time and stay involved with the College. He will become a member of the Ivy Tech Community College State Foundation Board. In addition, he will also continue as a liaison with some special initiatives in the Southeast Region in coordination with the President’s Office in Indianapolis.
Helms will be completing his 51st year in education in 2014 having been in secondary education for 35 years and with Ivy Tech for 16 years. Helms led the Southeast Region since 1998, which includes a five county service area of Dearborn, Ripley, Jefferson, Ohio, and Switzerland Counties. He was also involved with Ivy Tech prior to his role as Chancellor and had served on the Southeast Regional Board of Trustees from 1976 to 1998, as well as served as Chairman of the board from 1986 to 1998. Thus, he has been associated with Ivy Tech for a total of 37 years of his 51 year career. Helms had retired from his 35 year secondary career as a high school principal in 1998. During his first 12 years in secondary education he served as an English/Communications teacher, was a head basketball coach, baseball coach, athletic director, and soon became Guidance Director/Counselor.
“I have been fortunate and had an enjoyable, wonderful, productive 51 year career and made many friends in all walks of life”, said Helms. He further stated that he has been fortunate to have had great faculty and staff with whom to work over the years. “My career has been one of being able to create and build educational opportunities and curriculum for students over the years. My secondary career was one of being involved with establishing a new school, adding facilities, and dealing with growth leading to additional positive opportunities for students,” said Helms.
During Helms’ 16 year tenure, Ivy Tech Community College has had a massive and unprecedented growth period of enrollment, curriculum and programs. In addition, Helms managed the construction of 3 entirely new campus facilities at its locations in Batesville, Lawrenceburg and Madison. Enrollment in the region has grown from around 500 students to now serving some approximately 4,000 students per year. “We have been fortunate to achieve facilities second to none and far better than many and we are very proud of the campuses which now serve our communities and students,” said Helms.
Ivy Tech provides more dual credit in high schools than any other college in the state and is also the only college that does not charge for dual credit. This program alone is a tremendous money saver for students and parents. Recent commission reports show that the Southeast region’s Ivy Tech campuses have become the college-of-choice for high school graduates with more beginning as college freshman at Ivy Tech than any other State college or university.
Chancellor Helms also noted that he certainly expresses maximum appreciation to the Cities of Madison, Lawrenceburg, and Batesville for their cooperation and partnerships over the years. “The community college development is a total community movement, of which none in the State have excelled any more than those in this region,” said Helms. He stated that Ivy Tech Community College is not just in a community, it is truly part of the community to help every entity in every way possible. This tenure of expansion and growth has involved an accumulation of grants, donations, and such various support of approximately $20 million to Ivy Tech Community College and further community development. Helms also pointed out that Ivy Tech is also an economic-engine in each of its communities because the College also employs a large workforce in addition to serving students of all ages and career interests. The college has in excess of 90 percent of its graduates remain in Indiana after achieving a degree, workforce certification, or professional qualification.
Chancellor Helms has also received countless awards and has been recognized for creating and launching new programs. He was instrumental in working to bring the addition of transfer programs to the Lawrenceburg campus in 2004. He noted that when Ivy Tech expanded their Associate Degree programs that there was still a large geographical area void of being available for students to further earn a bachelor’s degree. Thus, Indiana University joined Ivy Tech to form the Ivy Tech/Indiana University East Bachelor’s Degree Completion Partnership. The program became successful immediately and has now expanded to some 7 bachelor’s degree programs available. Helms noted that prior to establishing these programs, students had to previously drive long distances to take such programs; and further, had to spend a lot more money in such ways as out-of-state tuition, higher tuition costs and transportation costs. The Ivy Tech/IU East Partnership has also been launched at the new Batesville Ivy Tech Campus. Helms received an invitation to attend an Indiana University State Board meeting in 2008 where he was recognized by Indiana University President Michael McRobbie for launching this Bachelor’s Degree Partnership Program.
Helms has received many other notable recognitions including being named by Cincy Magazine in 2008 to The Power 100 List as being one of the Tri-States top 100 influential people. Helms received Indiana’s highest award, The Sagamore on the Wabash, from Governor Frank O’Bannon, which was also presented to him by Senator Johnny Nugent at the time for career educational achievement. Further, he has also been recognized on Book of Lists in the Cincinnati Business Courier magazine and received a plaque on behalf of Ivy Tech for the College becoming the 6th largest college or university in the Tri-State area. And the magazine has also featured Helms in the “Executive Spotlight.”
Another special program launched within the last two years was pursued by Chancellor Helms when he approached Superintendent Jim Roberts in Batesville to discuss a new, advanced Ivy Tech/Batesville High School Curriculum Partnership project to coincide with the opening of the new Batesville Ivy Tech. Committees were formed and the program is now underway and progressing nicely. The program has had a personal visit from the Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers who has highly endorsed the partnership as a statewide model for other schools. Governor Mike Pence has also noted the partnership and recognized it when visiting Batesville recently, as well as when speaking at other locations. He expressed appreciation to Chancellor Helms for the program. More recently, Governor Pence addressed the State Chamber of Commerce noting the Batesville High School/Ivy Tech Partnership as a model for others. Helms and his staff continue to talk with other area high schools about the new opportunities of success.
Additional area Ivy Tech partnerships developed during Helms tenure include: Curriculum and Activity Articulation developed with Hanover College, for which Helms expresses sincere appreciation to Hanover College President Dr. Sue Dewine for her cooperation; numerous other area articulation agreements with colleges and universities; Hospital partnerships developed and expanded with King’s Daughters in Madison, Dearborn County Hospital, and Margaret Mary Hospital in Batesville concerning shared training and RN nursing program; Ivy Tech has expanded and taken over several area community EMT training programs; establishment of Advanced Manufacturing Training Labs in Madison, Lawrenceburg, and Batesville; and coordination with area Economic Development Directors to be at the table for special training for new and existing businesses and industries and all phases of improving workforce development.
Other activities and boards during Helms careers are too numerous to mention all, but some include: College Administrator Association; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Counseling and Guidance Association; North Central Association of Schools and Colleges Evaluation Team Member; Chamber of Commerce Boards/Officer/Member in Lawrenceburg, Batesville, Madison; Tri-Township Water Board; Cincinnati Musicians Association; Dearborn County Redevelopment Commission; Economic Development Board; Dearborn County Community Foundation Board and past President; Indiana Retired Teacher Association; National Speakers Bureau Affiliation; Small Business Development Center Advisory Board; Broadcasting Association; and American Technical Education Association.
While Helms has been in education his entire career, he is also known widely as a public speaker for various groups and organizations including commencements, awards banquets, churches, faculty groups, student groups, civic clubs, and guest lectures at colleges; and has served as a Master of Ceremonies for many events. He has worked in broadcasting over the years as a radio announcer and once worked with WLW television, as well as radio in Hamilton, Ohio. He has introduced pre-game and half time shows for the Cincinnati Bengals and also worked directly with Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott with parade coordination and pre-game opening day arrangements. For many years he was the house organist and announcer at Beef N’ Boards Dinner Theatre in Cincinnati, played numerous nights at Glenn Schmidt’s Supper Club (now the Syndicate) in Newport, Kentucky and quite often at the famed Beverly Hills in Southgate, Kentucky which hosted national acts constantly too. All of this led to meeting, spending time with, and introducing many national acts, and Hollywood people such as: Brenda Lee, Pat Paulsen, Little Jimmy Dickens, Myrna, Wally and the Beaver, John Caradine, Tammy Wynette, Ray Charles, Bob Hope, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford.
Further, Helms played the warm-up portion for the Ray Charles show several times and Ray Charles always borrowed Helms’ organ equipment when at Beef N’ Boards. He has played organ, guitar and bass in bands and entertainment agents. Further, he has had the opportunity to spend time on the road with some Nashville country stars. And along the way he has also officiated basketball for over 25 doing numerous regular season and IHSAA tournament games in many locations around the State. A couple of additional highlights included the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals. They had off-season basketball teams that played around the area to stay in shape. Helms officiated many of their games and stated that it was great fun too. It was the Big Red Machine era and the team included Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Lee May, Bobby Tolan and several others. Bengal wise he most remembers Dave Lapham, Max Montoya, Issac Curtis, and Jim Breech. He said it was amazing how good both the Reds and the Bengals were as basketball players.
Helms also stated that one of the greatest satisfactions of his 16 years with Ivy Tech is the over-all progress achieved. “Ivy Tech was still struggling to grow 10 to 15 years ago and was not held in very high esteem then because of being in old, leased buildings, struggling to get started, get programs, curriculum, and get financially in a situation to enable progressing in every way. But I am pleased to say the that Ivy Tech Community College and has arrived and is providing quality facilities, equipment, curriculum, programs and instruction; and most of all serving each local community with their needs.” Helms further stated that Ivy Tech now serves a niche long needed in the State which enables a large number of people to pursue post-secondary education to people of all ages and interests to improve their skills and workforce ability. I say all of this with the utmost respect for all colleges and universities in Indiana because Indiana has a wonderful range of educational opportunities with many great State and Private schools. The point is that now Ivy Tech Community College adds greatly to the State’s total value of education and now fills that void of having classes and programs available for everyone without having to go off and live someplace else as well as Ivy Tech providing quality at low cost. Other great progress includes the number of high schools Ivy Tech partners with to enable them to expand and utilize curriculum by their students while in high school that the high school could not offer otherwise; and Ivy offers more dual credit than any others in the State and is the only college or university that does not charge for dual credit. This saves high school parents and students multi thousands of dollars annually. Our Ivy Tech Southeast location here is now in a tremendous expansion to work with every high school to enhance their curriculum, coordinate master schedules, and be able to greatly utilize release time now allowed for their seniors and some juniors while in high school. Further, Ivy Tech is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of Colleges and Schools of the North Central Association; and all State college and universities now have a statewide transfer crosswalk enabling transfer of credits. A recent Indiana Commission report shows that Ivy Tech has become the first-choice for the majority of high school seniors.
Helms and his wife Charlotte have 3 children, Jeff (Jennifer) of Marinette, Wisconsin, Kristan (Ben) of Carmel, Indiana, and Doug (Kendra) of Harrison, Ohio, as well as 11 grandchildren. Helms said they intend to do considerable travelling, continuing many of his community volunteer activities, and of course remain active with Ivy Tech as Chancellor Emeritus and doing some Special Initiatives for the President’s office. He further said that he will miss seeing a lot of colleagues as often but also noted that there is always great satisfaction in often seeing many of the thousands of graduates encountered during his career, as well as those with whom he has worked.