Helm named Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences 2019 Alumnus of the Year

Published: May 19, 2020
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David Helm has been named Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Outstanding Alumnus for 2019. As manager of International Paper’s West Region Fiber Supply, Helm leads the team that supplies wood to eight mills throughout the U.S., delivering more than 20 million tons of fiber each year.

After graduating in 1984 with a degree in forest engineering, Helm began his career with Champion International Corporation. International Paper, or IP, acquired Champion in 2000. He held numerous positions, including wood procurement, land management and forest operations, chip mill and woodyard operations, resource planning and analysis and general management.

Helm has had operational responsibilities from the Carolinas to Oregon and has actively served in state forestry association roles in Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama—where he is a past president and chairman of the Alabama Forestry Association. In the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, then-Alabama Gov. Bob Riley appointed Helm as chairman of the Alabama Forest Recovery Task Force.

Paul Schrantz, the Weaver Professor of Forest Management in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and a 1975 Auburn forestry management graduate, nominated Helm for the honor.

“I have been impressed by his commitment to the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, his career achievements and his service to the forestry community in the state of Alabama,” Shrantz said. “He not only supports the school and its programs, but he also makes himself accessible to give encouragement and advice to students on their career paths.”

Helm keeps an ongoing commitment to the school, including serving on the Advisory Council—on which he has served as chairman—as well as presenting annually to the “forestry in the private sector” class and encouraging International Paper employees to join him in his involvement in the spring procurement practicum.

“By being involved in and supporting these courses, he is helping to prepare our students to be successful participants in the forest industry upon graduation,” Shrantz said.

School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Dean Janaki Alavalapati said Helm exemplifies a leader who contributes his expansive background of knowledge and experience in whatever capacity it is needed.

“Through the years, David has taken on major leadership roles in the forest industry as well as state forestry associations across the nation,” Alavalapati said. “He has shown an ongoing eagerness to contribute to the school through service on the Advisory Council, involvement in the ‘forestry in the private sector’ class and the spring procurement practicum, and guidance of students who seek careers in the forest industry. He is a role model not only to those students, but also to his colleagues.”

Helm currently serves in an advisory capacity on the Texas Forestry Association Executive Committee and is a member and past chair of the Auburn School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences Advisory Council. He is a registered forester in Alabama and a member of several state forestry associations. David and his wife, Adena, live in Benton, Louisiana.

(Written by Teri Greene)

The Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences is a flagship institution for natural resources-based degrees including natural resource management, geospatial and environmental informatics, and sustainable biomaterials and packaging. The school is also the backbone to Alabama's $22 billion forest, wildlife and natural resources industry. Its mission is to create future professionals and leaders and to develop new knowledge and science-based solutions and share them with individuals, families, communities and industries so they can make informed decisions to advance their business and well-being.