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Muhlenberg College President Randy Helm Will Retire in June 2015

Muhlenberg College President Peyton R. (Randy) Helm has announced his decision to retire June 30, 2015. The announcement came at the end of the College’s Board of Trustees board meeting this weekend.

Saturday, February 1, 2014 01:56 PM

Commenting on the announcement, Muhlenberg College’s Chair of the Board of Trustees Richard C. Crist Jr. '77 stated that "Randy Helm has provided outstanding leadership to Muhlenberg for more than a decade.  The College has a strong foundation and tremendous momentum thanks to his efforts.  The opportunity to build on the success of the past 10 years should be very attractive to an excellent pool of accomplished leaders."  A national search for a successor will begin this spring.

Helm took office July 1, 2003.  With the exception of DeSales University President the Reverend Bernard O'Connor, he is the longest serving president in the Lehigh Valley.

Under Helm's leadership, the College’s endowment grew from $70 million to $200 million.  He also led to completion a $110 million Capital Campaign, The Talents Entrusted to Our Care.

During Helm's tenure, the College developed two Strategic Plans, completed a new life sports center and new science building, expanded and renovated Seegers Union, built new residence halls, expanded its Hillel House, and retrofitted existing buildings as new facilities for the performing arts, multicultural life, global education, and social sciences.  A renovation and addition to 110-year old historic East Hall will be completed next summer. In addition, the College has greatly reduced energy consumption, increased recycling, and strengthened sustainability programs.

Over the past decade, the College has continued to set records for admissions applications while raising the academic profile of the student body. The College has made great strides in diversity over the past decade.  For four straight years, the incoming freshman class has included more than 10 percent students of color, including 15 percent this past year.

On the academic front, the College began implementing a new curriculum in 2013.  Muhlenberg added 10 new faculty positions over the last decade.  It also launched majors in film studies and Jewish studies, and minors in Africana studies and public health, and greatly expanded study abroad opportunities, internships and student research opportunities.

Student Life has also flourished.  After a task force developed clearer standards for Greek organizations early in Helm’s administration, the College’s fraternities and sororities strengthened their academic performance and public service achievements.  For seven consecutive semesters, Greek students have had a higher average GPA than independents at College.

One of Helm’s earliest initiatives focused on developing a partnership with the 19th Street area merchants.  These early efforts evolved into the West End Theatre District organization that has improved the streetscape and made other improvements.  The College partnered with the Civic Theatre last year to introduce digital projection and other improvements, while encouraging more campus programming at the theatre and in the neighborhood.

A particular focus of Helm’s effort has been strengthening shared governance at Muhlenberg, ensuring that faculty, staff, and students work collegially with the Board of Trustees on institutional planning and policy development.  At the beginning of his tenure, he worked with faculty and trustees to create the College’s Board of Observers – an elected group of distinguished alumni and others who provide ongoing assessment of the College’s academic and administrative programs.

In addition to his administrative responsibilities, Helm served as a professor of history and taught courses in Homeric Epic and Greek history.  In the December, the College published a collection of his speeches and essays: Launched on the Wine Dark Sea: A Decade of Advice to Undergraduates and Reflections on the Liberal Arts.

“This has been a deeply satisfying and joyous period of my life,” said Helm.  “The last decade has been a wonderful time to be at Muhlenberg College.  Pat and I have made many wonderful friendships which we will continue to treasure.  I am extremely proud of our senior management team, the faculty, staff, students, alumni and trustees.  I am grateful for the privilege of having served such a dynamic institution.  There is still much to accomplish over the next 17 months, and I look forward to working with faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, and trustees to make the most of this time.  I also want to do everything in my power to assist with a smooth and celebratory transition.”

Prior to Muhlenberg, Helm served as vice president for college relations and professor of classical studies at Colby College.  He is a graduate of Yale University and received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.  Helm’s wife, Patricia Burton Helm, is a member of the music faculty at the College.

Founded in 1848, Muhlenberg College is a highly selective liberal arts college affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Presidents of Muhlenberg College 1848-2015


Four principals of the Allentown Seminary, President
Of the Allentown Collegiate and Military Institute and a President of the Allentown Collegiate Institute.


Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg


J.P. Benjamin Sadtler


Theodore Lorenzo Seip


  William Wackernagel (acting)


John A.W. Haas


  Robert C. Horn (acting)


 Levering Tyson


  Quintity (five-man acting committee)


  Morris S. Greth (acting)


J. Conrad Seegers


Erling N. Jensen


John H. Morey


Jonathan C. Messerli


Arthur R. Taylor


James B. Steffy


Peyton R. Helm

College Achievements, 2003-2014

Buildings/Major Renovations:

  • ’04-’05 – Life Sports Center expansion completed
  • ’04-’05 – Newman Center doubled in size
  • ’05-’06 – New Science Building completed, including the creation of the Acopian Center for Ornithology
  • ’06-’07 – New residence hall completed– 2201 Chew Street
  • ’06-’07 – New Multicultural Center completed  housing international programs, multicultural programs, classroom and student space
  • ’07-’08 – Village residence halls completed
  • ’09-’10 – Former TKE fraternity house redesigned as Rehearsal House
  • ’09-’10 – Seegers Union expansion completed in August ’10, including opening of The Robert and Ilene Wood Dining Commons   
  • ’10-’11 – Newly renovated and expanded Hillel opens, along with new facilities for sociology and anthropology
  • ’13-14 – East Hall renovated and expanded.

Academic Programs:

  • ’04-’05 – Muhlenberg offers accelerated graduate degree programs in Physical and Occupational Therapy through Thomas Jefferson University
  • ’05-’06 – New minor in public health
  • ’05-’06 – New film studies major
  • ’05-’06 – New major in finance
  • ’05 – Two new faculty lines approved for ’06-’07 academic year in political science and film studies
  • ’06-’07 – New minor approved in Africana studies
  • ’06 – Two new tenure-track positions approved for ‘07-’08 academic year in neuroscience and sociology. A third (non-tenurable) line was added in film studies. 
  • ’07 – Three new tenure lines approved for ’08-’09 academic year in biology, art and music
  • ’09-’10 – Arts management concentration within the business administration major
  • ’09 – New tenure line in Africana studies approved
  • ’11-’12 – New Jewish studies major
  • ’13 – New general education curriculum passed by the faculty

Major Gifts:

  • ’03-’04 – The Kresge Foundation pledges $900,000 to support Muhlenberg new Life Sports Center; Joseph and Rita Scheller endow student scholarships for Muhlenberg RJ Fellow program.
  • ’04-’05 – National Science Foundation announces $1 million grant for Science education and student research
  • ’05-’06 – Chairman of the Board, Richard  Brueckner ’71 and his wife Laurie ’72 make a $1.5 million commitment to the Life Sports Center renovation and expansion
  • 05-’06 – Local businessman and philanthropist Sarkis Acopian accelerates Shankweiler renovations with a major gift and creation of the Acopian Center for Ornithology
  • ’07-’08 – Richard “Doc” Williams leaves a bequest of $7.2 million to Muhlenberg for scholarships
  • ’07-’08 – William ’49 and Virginia Miers endow a faculty chair in Entrepreneurial Studies and Business
  • ’08-’09 – Anonymous donor pledges $1 million to sponsor Hillel renovation
  • ’08-’09 – Joseph and Rita Scheller endow a faculty chair for Muhlenberg’s RJ Fellows program
  • ’10-’11 – Robert and Ilene Wood commit $1 million to fund a new dining hall in Seegers Union
  • 10-’11 – The Stabler Foundation awards a $1 million gift for endowed scholarships
  • ’11-’12  - After an initial grant of $250,000, The Oak Foundation commits an additional $500,000 to support the Academic Resource Center’s Learning Assistants program
  • ’11-’12 – Jim Lentz ’66 and wife Debra pledge $1 million to endow scholarship support for theatre and dance majors
  • During President Helm’s tenure, The Century Fund provided over $1 million in support for financial aid and the new science arch. 
  • Additionally, the Harry C. Trexler Trust made gifts totaling more than $1.5 million in support of the New Science Building, the Rehearsal House and financial aid.


  • ’04 – West End Alliance formed
  • ’04-’05 – Board of Observers created
  • ’05-’06 – Muhlenberg  is the first liberal arts college in the nation to achieve Hillel accreditation
  • ’08-’09 – Launch of “Reality MC,” career workshop for seniors
  • ’09-’10 – The College joined the Consortium for Faculty Diversity
  • ’09-’10 – The Language Lab added international television programming in six languages
  • ’09-’10 – Received the Joseph S. Daddona Good Neighbor Award from the Greater LV Chamber of Commerce
  • ’10-’11 – The College partnered with the Jewish Theological Seminary for semester-long opportunities
  • ’11-’12 – New study abroad program at Dublin City University in Ireland
  • ’11-’12Princeton Review ranked Muhlenberg the #1  theatre program in the nation
  • ’11-’12 –  Muhlnet, an effort to create active professional networks linking alumni with each other and with current undergraduates, introduced
  • ’12-’13 – Muhlenberg named one of the Morning Call’s top places to work in the Lehigh Valley
  • ’13-’14 – Diversity Strategic Planning Process started
  • ’14 - Endowment grew from $70M in 2003 to $200M in 2014