Manchester College mourns loss
of former First Lady Pat Helman
Patricia Kennedy Helman – beloved first lady and hostess of
Manchester College for 30 years – died Friday, Oct. 28. Mrs. Helman, who
had been in declining health, lived with her husband of 58 years, former
President A. Blair Helman, in Timbercrest Retirement Community in North
Manchester. She was 80.
The memorial service for Mrs. Helman is at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, at the
North Manchester Church of the Brethren, 1306
N. Beckley St. The family will receive friends immediately
following the service.
Kennedy Helman’s life was the kind we all aspire to live,” said
Manchester President Jo Young Switzer. “ She celebrated literature,
drama, art, and theology. Her Irish wit gave a wonderful perspective on
struggles and on relationships.
“She was devoted to her husband, and their enjoyment of one another led
to peals of laughter that enriched us all. Her death is a tremendous
loss to the Manchester College community and to her thousands of friends
around the world.”
As first lady during Blair Helman's presidency from 1956 to 1986, Mrs.
Helman served as ambassador, hostess and patron of the arts. She took
special delight in decorating Tall Oaks, the president’s residence, and
filling the Christmas season with parties and gatherings. Her portrait
still hangs in Tall Oaks. The couple’s
portrait hangs in the great room of Helman Hall, a residence hall named
in their honor.
love of music and the arts manifested itself on campus in myriad ways,
from the serious to the whimsical. She enjoyed discussing books with the
College Women’s Club and hosted its enormously popular annual tea. Every
fall, she and music Professor Gary Deavel would compose a variety show
for faculty and staff. She wrote Forever Christmas, which played
in November 1999 in the Honeywell Center’s Ford Theater in Wabash, Ind.
She also wrote the lyrics to the College anthem, Manchester Fair.
Even in retirement, Mrs. Helman remained dedicated to the Manchester
College community, returning for celebrations and events. In 1989, the
couple led an alumni tour to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii.
Pat Helman was co-founder and president of The Joyful Scribes Corp., a
religious greeting card company purchased by Abby Press in 1993. Her poems
and posters will long endure, including her most
popular poster: “Bach gave us God’s Word, “Mozart gave us God’s Laughter,
“Beethoven gave us God’s Fire, God gave us Music that we might pray
She authored four books, was a published poet and playwright. Her last
book, Sign & Symbol, (1992, The Brethren Press) is considered a
major contribution toward preserving accessible historical information
about art in the Church of the Brethren. Her writings appeared in The
Upper Room, Messenger, Alive Now, The
Christian Century and Brethren Life & Thought.
As an ordained minister of the Church of the Brethren (as is her
husband), Mrs. Helman spoke in hundreds of churches and to secular
groups throughout the Midwest. She served as 1982 moderator of the church’s
South Central District
Conference. She served as visiting chaplain at Timbercrest; on the Board
of Governors of the National Council of Churches, and as an officer of
the Association for the Arts in the Church of the Brethren. She founded
Art for Hunger in 1975.
awarded Mrs. Helman with an honorary degree in May 1997, and in March
2003, honored the couple for their philanthropy. In 1996, Howard S. and
Myra Bates Brembeck established the Manchester College Presidential
Leadership Awards in honor of the Helmans. The fund awards scholarships
to students who demonstrate the promise of making outstanding
contributions to the world.
Raised in Marshallltown, Iowa, she received her bachelor’s degree and
doctorate from McPherson College. Her theological study was at Bethany
Biblical Seminary, Associated Mennonite Seminary and Iliff School of
Theology. The couple married June 21, 1947.
After retirement from Manchester College, the Helmans lived in Fort
Wayne, Ind., returning to North Manchester in
2000. The Helmans have two
daughters, Harriet “Bunny” Hill of Wichita, Kan., and Patricia Magaro of
Columbus, Ind., four grandsons and a granddaughter.
Memorials may be made to The A. Blair and Patricia K. Helman Honor
Scholarships/Manchester College Presidential Leadership Awards in care
of the Manchester College Office of College Advancement, 604 E. College
Ave., North Manchester, Ind. 46962