Leo Helzel, MBA 68, LLM 70, an honored faculty member who guided the school’s first forays into entrepreneurship and was a dedicated and generous supporter of Haas for decades, passed away March 21 at age 101.
Helzel’s history at Haas includes a series of firsts. He taught the business school’s first entrepreneurship class—one of the first such courses offered at a U.S. business school. He was the first chair of the¯ Haas School Board, and he was the first Haas instructor to be honored with an adjunct professor emeritus title upon retirement in recognition of his nearly 40 years of service.
Helzel was also instrumental in establishing the school’s entrepreneurship program. In addition to teaching, he provided the funding to endow the Leo B. and Florence Helzel Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in 1986. He worked closely with then-Dean Richard Holton to create the business school’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which opened in 1991.
Helzel summarized his entrepreneurial verve and lifelong learnings—alongside wisdom from the CEOs of the Gap, Bank of America, and Williams-Sonoma—in his 1995 book, A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline: Extraordinary Wisdom for Entrepreneurs, Managers, and Other Smart People, and donated the proceeds to Haas.
A Depression-era child who came from humble beginnings, Helzel flew as a navigator on Navy planes during World War II and later launched successful careers as an accountant, lawyer, and entrepreneur. He taught international business at Berkeley starting in 1967 while simultaneously taking MBA courses, completing his degree at age 51. He then earned his master of laws (LLM) from Berkeley in 1970.
Helzel gave generously to the Haas School’s original campus that opened in 1995 and to its new building. He was also a Trustee for Golden Gate University and for the California College of the Arts, served on the board of Berkeley Law, and was active in several Bay Area nonpro fit organizations.