Putting College First: App State alum creates pathway for faculty support

Del Hunt Helton saw firsthand how private support for faculty could transform teaching and learning experiences for hundreds of students.

As director of donor relations for the Arts and Sciences Foundation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for nearly 19 years before retiring in 2017, she oversaw stewardship efforts that included preparing detailed annual reports for donors on how their gifts benefited students and faculty. 

Helton, a 1979 Appalachian State University alumna, of Durham, N.C., and her husband Billy, have been making expendable gifts for several years to support faculty in Appalachian’s College of Arts and Sciences for travel, research, technology and other resources essential to scholarship and classroom teaching. 

A provision in Helton’s estate plan will create an endowment -- the Billy and Del Hunt Helton Faculty Excellence Fund for the College of Arts and Sciences -- with initial annual distributions of at least $10,000 for College faculty support. Awards will be made through an application process conducted through the dean’s office.

"Creating an endowment to benefit a place that I love is a privilege. I want the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to ‘say yes’ to faculty who need research and teaching resources that support the liberal arts, especially in advancing critical thinking skills,” said Helton. “I encourage other alumni to include Appalachian in their estate plans to help future generations of Mountaineers.”

“The Heltons’ ongoing generosity offers specific support for our faculty and students through unrestricted funds that can cover a wider range of travel, research and other high impact activities for our students. This type of support is what attracts strong students to Appalachian and helps us retain our extraordinary faculty,” said Neva J. Specht, dean, College of Arts and Sciences.

Dr. Phillip Ardoin, chair and professor in the Department of Government and Justice Studies was the 2019-20 recipient of Helton funds for #App2Iowa: The 2020 Presidential Campaign. App2Iowa was a study away course offered to engage students in the Presidential campaign process first hand in early 2020. Students traveled to Iowa for five days to engage with candidates campaigning for the Presidential election and the process of the caucus. 

During the trip to Iowa, the group of 15 students and five faculty attended 14 Presidential candidate events and served as outside observers the night of the Iowa Caucus. Their request was for financial support to assist with the costs of travel to Iowa which in turn allowed the department to reduce the cost of the course for students.

“Our first #App2Iowa course was offered in 2016. Four of the 12 students from the 2016 class are now working in Washington, D.C., with campaign organizations and members of Congress. The 2016 #App2Iowa course was truly life-changing for these students and I know the same will be true of the 2020 participants. Meeting Presidential candidates and actually observing the Iowa Caucus is simply amazing,” said Ardoin. 

The current recipient of Helton funding is Dr. Ellen Lamont, associate professor in the Department of Sociology. Lamont applied for research support to collect interview data to write a second book. Drawing on interviews with 80 working-class men and women in a conservative region of Appalachia, Lamont’s research will investigate changing economic conditions as a catalyst for social change in gendered relationships. 

Lamont’s project will benefit the undergraduate student experience in three ways. First, with support from a URA grant, Lamont will hire a research assistant to help code data. This will provide a student with valuable research experience they can leverage when applying to graduate school or for jobs. Second, she will present this work to students as part of a university lecture series. Finally, the completed work will make a good addition to sociology courses on gender, families, economic inequality and Appalachian communities in the department, which will help students better understand and engage with the local community, one of the university's strategic goals for creating a transformative undergraduate experience.

An English major with minors in Communication Arts and Music, Helton began her career as a journalist for newspapers in North Carolina and Colorado, then worked in corporate communications for several large companies until joining UNC-Chapel Hill in 1998. She earned an M.B.A. from Meredith College in 1991.

“Writing for The Appalachian, the App State student newspaper, was great practice for my first job. While I enjoyed classes in my major, my courses in political science, history and communication also provided a solid foundation for understanding an ever-changing world,” Helton said.  

Helton has been a member of Appalachian’s College of Arts and Sciences Advancement Council for six years, serving as chair from 2017-19. Though her husband Billy is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus, he worked for the institutional research office at Appalachian from 1990-94.

“We love Boone for many reasons, and are always there in our hearts,” said Helton.


About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.

About University Advancement
Appalachian State University’s Division of University Advancement supports and encourages the university’s mission by engaging alumni, friends and the greater community. University Advancement staff help connect these constituents with Appalachian through one-on-one contact and special programming, thereby securing the resources necessary to create the best possible learning environment for Appalachian students and to positively impact the community, region and state. The division incorporates the offices of Alumni Affairs, Development and the Appalachian State University Foundation Inc. Learn more at http://give.appstate.edu.

By Ellen Gwin Burnette
Jan. 28, 2021

Billy and Del Hunt Helton ’79, photo submitted.
Published: Jan 28, 2021 9:03am