One man’s inspiring story in this season of giving

What were the common concerns of a senior in high-school in the 1950s — where should I work, should I go to college, what do I want to do for the rest of my life, or what do I want my legacy to be?

For one young man, he had chosen to enroll in college but then the unthinkable occurred. His father died. How he responded to this personal tragedy and the personal journey that ensued is of inspiration for all of us during this season of giving.

The young man’s application to attend Miami of Ohio University was delayed due to the family’s loss. The result, his first housing at college was in Army barracks on campus. He worked to pay his way through college, earning a bachelor’s degree in geology. His academic performance earned him a scholarship to complete his master’s in Geology.

After graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force to be a pilot, but his enlistment was delayed. As a result he took a job as a geologist at Shell Oil. After three weeks with Shell the Air Force called and stated they were ready for him, but the enlistment term to be a pilot had changed from three- to a five-year commitment. He choose a different role in his enlistment that required three years, working in photo radar intelligence, which had him projecting what Russian cities looked like on radar, a top secret assignment at the time.

His career took a turn when he started a ski club on the base, gaining the attention of his commanding general. The general hired him in a marketing role, which included hosting visiting dignitaries from around the world.

He stayed in marketing after his enlistment ended, working first in the mining and shipping industry on the Great Lakes.

He found his passion in working with people, which led him into fundraising with Beta Theta Pi, a fraternity known for developing future leaders in industry and society, where he helped develop and launch the Beta Leadership Fund.

He then took an opportunity to work as an administrative aid for a congressmen for two years before returning to fundraising as vice president at Berea College.

His career path led him to Michigan Tech when then-president Ray Smith asked him to join the university’s advancement team to support Tech’s growth. His leadership helped his fundraising campaign team raise $50 million, far exceeding the $40 million goal.

He retired in 2006, but his talents have been put to use in this community, as he helped in fundraising campaigns for Little Brothers and the Humane Society as well as work with the Houghton Rotary and other achievements.

Our current graduates struggle to understand what career they should pursue and what role they should play in their community. Ron Helman’s life serves as a model for us, that where your career begins will be very different from where it will end.

Our time, talents and treasures can be used in so many ways to benefit society, which provides us perhaps our most valued personal rewards. Let Helman’s career journey and legacy of giving back to his community inspire you to launch your own legacy of personal career achievements and success in supporting others in your community.

Steve Patchin is director of Career Services at Michigan Technological University.