Helms is Paying it Forward

Helms is Paying it Forward

Jim Helms stands near his Alfred State diploma in his office
Jim Helms stands near his Alfred State diploma in his office

Jim Helms, a 1993 graduate, sees daily the impact Alfred State College (ASC) makes. What he sees, has him looking for ways to pay it forward to current and future Pioneers.

With an initial plan to take liberal arts classes to begin a path towards becoming an art teacher, Helms first started classes at Alfred State after graduating from nearby Andover Central School in 1987. That initial plan did not work out and he found himself working with his dad, who was a tax accountant.

The time away from school and in the accounting office led Helms back to Alfred State and onto a new path that has led him to lead Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville as their CEO.

“I figured out that I had a pretty good knack for putting together tax returns and doing financial calculations, so I decided to go back to Alfred and study accounting.”

Helms recalls the great influences he had in the classroom including professors Tom Stolberg, Gerald Wiles, Tom Brown, Karen Perrigo, and Chuck Neal. He also remembers being part of formation of the accounting club with Professor Stolberg and recalls the friendships built with fellow classmates, including lifelong friend Robert Piazza Pilato. 

“Alfred was at the forefront of technology at that point. We had probably one of the best computer labs. When I continued my education at St. Bonaventure, I was far ahead in my computer and technology classes. From a technical hands-on standpoint, I couldn’t have been better prepared.”

Helms had planned on going into the workforce after graduating from Alfred State but his success in the classroom afforded him a transfer scholarship to St. Bonaventure where he completed his bachelor’s degree. He was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa and was the recipient of the Orvis Award during his time at ASC.

While at Alfred State, Helms was not only a successful student, but he was a husband, a father, and member of the Army reserves. 

“During my break from Alfred, I got married and had two children. I joined the reserves to help pay for college and was going to do one enlistment and move on.  Twenty-five years later I ended up retiring. I worked extended times in the summer and was able to provide for my family and still attend classes during regular semester times.”

After finishing up at St. Bonaventure, Helms joined the professional ranks as a CPA and held positions at Arthur Anderson, within the telecommunications field, and within major manufacturing before landing in healthcare in 2004.

He spent nine years at St. James Hospital in Hornell before coming over to Jones Memorial Hospital where he has worked for the past nine year and currently holds the CEO title. 

“My education made me versatile in the accounting world. I had an education that allowed me to move between multiple

Jim Helms shows his Alfred State pride
Jim Helms shows his Alfred State pride

industries and helped prepare me to lead a hospital. I came with a different problem-solving process and the working knowledge I had really allowed me to not do just finance. I was able to migrate operational areas of the hospital. With the finance side you learn how the business operates but the operational side you learn where the numbers come from. You lean on people that know a lot more than you. I don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. I just need to lead the thought process and how we are going to come to a solution.”

Helms is still connected to the college in multiple ways. He serves on the college’s Development Fund Board, interacts with current ASC nursing students at the hospital, and champions the college in Allegany County.

“Being a member of the Development Fund Board, I have seen the change and impact on student lives. I can’t imagine not doing it. We are charged to raise scholarship funds. Alfred State worked for me so why wouldn’t I pay it forward. It is important to me that those opportunities and doors are open for future Pioneers. Alfred State is a great memory in all alumni’s lives. It is a chance to reconnect.”

Helms connects with current and past Pioneers in his role at the hospital. “Day one when Alfred State nursing students visit Jones, I meet with them and brag with them that I am a Pioneer. I also get to interact with alum across the University of Rochester network. It is impressive how many ASC alums are in the organization.”

Helms, an active member of the community, sees the impact that Alfred State has on Allegany County and more specifically on Wellsville. “The Wellsville campus is so special. The students it brings and the workforce it develops. The employment rate is mind-boggling. It is a gem here in Wellsville.”

Alfred State has impacted more than just his life. His mother and his brother both attended Alfred State, at the same time he was attending, and his wife later graduated from the nursing program.

Helms is not only active championing for Alfred State, but he also uses his financial expertise to help American Legion Post 702 and his local church. He shares his love for running and his community by chairing the hospital’s annual RidgeWalk & Run.