FORT WAYNE – Paul Helmke quit teaching college classes for a career in politics. Now he’s reversing course.
Indiana University announced Tuesday that Helmke, a former three-term mayor of Fort Wayne, will join the faculty of its School of Public and Environmental Affairs, on the Bloomington campus.
Helmke, 64, will be a professor of practice for SPEA and direct its Civic Leaders Living-Learning Center, which will open next fall at the Briscoe residence hall. The center will be for freshmen who plan to study government, public policy, politics and economics.
Helmke starts his new job in January but said he will keep his Fort Wayne house.
It’s still home base, he said in a telephone interview.
A lawyer by profession, Helmke taught media law at IPFW for a few years before he was elected mayor of Fort Wayne in 1987. The Republican was re-elected twice, serving through 1999, and he was president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 1997-98.
Helmke was president of the Brady Campaign and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C., from 2006 through mid-2011. He has been doing consulting and legal work since leaving the Brady Center and returning to Fort Wayne.
IU students will be a little bit more of a captive and hopefully interested audience than I got as mayor or at Brady, he joked.
I would have to pass their test at elections, he said about local voters. But IU students are going to have to pass my test.
David Reingold, executive associate dean for SPEA, said in a written statement, We take pride in so many of our faculty having real-world experience, and Paul Helmke certainly has that quality in abundance.
Helmke also was the Republican candidate for an Indiana seat in the U.S. Senate in 1998, and he twice sought the GOP nomination for a U.S. House seat. He went to law school at Yale University with future President Bill Clinton and future senator and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Helmke is in fact a Bloomington native. His parents, Walter P. and Rowene Helmke, lived there when Walter was studying at IU and Paul was born.
A 1970 IU graduate who majored in political science, Paul Helmke was elected student government president his senior year. One of his daughters earned a master’s degree from SPEA.
IU’s Living-Learning Centers let students take certain courses at dormitories where they reside. The centers include those for business, media, arts and global studies.
Helmke said that with the civic leaders center, my job is to put that program together in terms of what kind of speakers might come in, what sort of classes might be taught at the dorm, what sort of special projects or internships we might come up with.
He added: I always liked school. I know it’s a little sick in some ways. I enjoyed going to classes, I enjoyed reading the books, I enjoyed arguing ideas. It’ll be fun to be doing this again.
His younger brother, Mark Helmke, a former aide to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., joined Trine University in Angola over the summer as a communications instructor in its Ketner Business School.