For many people, retirement is a stage of life to look forward to. Not so for Leo Helzel (’38), who, at the age of 96, still leads the life of a workingman, albeit at a slightly slower pace. “Work is still interesting. I like what I do. Why change?” Helzel asks from his Oakland, Calif., office.
His typical workday consists of assorted activities, from answering mail and overseeing the Helzel Family Foundation to handling committee matters for the business and law schools at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is an adjunct professor emeritus.
Throughout his long and varied career, Helzel worked as an accountant, lawyer, entrepreneur, author (A Goal Is a Dream With a Deadline), and teacher, while also earning advanced degrees from Berkeley.
Like Baruch students past and present who juggle school and jobs, so too, did Helzel, a Depression-era kid from Queens who was the first in his immigrant family to earn a college degree. “During the Depression, you did whatever was necessary. I worked all the way through school.” He adds, “I got a helluva good education out of it, and I’m indebted.”
Among his City College/Baruch contemporaries, Helzel counts classmate Abraham Briloff (’37, MSEd ’41) and Emanuel Saxe (’23). “These were exceptional people. We were so fortunate to have that caliber of students and teachers.”
Helzel is not all work and no play. He’s a devoted family man to Florence, his wife of 67 years; their two children; and grand- and great-grandchildren. He also plays tennis once a week. “As long as I’m lucky to be able to do things, at least I get out and try.”
Photo collage above: Helzel in the 1937 Lexicon (left); Helzel in 1995 (right).