David Hellums, 1929-2016

JD Hellums plaid suit

I was saddened to learn yesterday of the death of David Hellums. As an engineering professor, as dean, and as a citizen of the university David served Rice well and for many years. He arrived here in 1960 as an assistant professor and became a pioneer in Rice’s turn to bioengineering, working closely with Michael DeBakey on early attempts to develop an artificial heart. (Click here for the Rice News biography, a record of a remarkable career.)

Although he was a Texas grad Hellums always seemed to me a quintessential Rice guy. He came from a small town north of Abilene, not quite in the panhandle but close, and boy, could you ever tell. He had that deep intelligence and curiosity coupled with a complete lack of pretension that I have found characterizes so many of our faculty and students from this era. He was, that is, not just a good engineer but also a good guy. He was the kind of guy that when a king came to campus, you put him in charge of the visit:

Belgian King Baudoiun artificial heart

David Hellums, rest in peace.

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5 Responses to David Hellums, 1929-2016

  1. marmer01 says:

    That plaid suit and that mustache! Wow. What’s on the table besides big glass ashtrays?

  2. Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

    May be prototypes of an artificial heart or intermediate designs. It looks vaguely like the first heart Dr. Cooley ‘borrowed’ from Debakey

  3. Gloria Meckel Tarpley '81 says:

    Were he and Bonnie Hellums related?

  4. Joan schell says:

    Lovely tribute to a true gentleman and wonderful human being.

  5. Jeff Ross says:

    David was a super guy. We had the pleasure of getting to know him and his wife, Marilyn, while associates at old Wiess. We still follow her turkey enchiladas recipe with Thanksgiving and Christmas leftovers. Your write up pictures him well.

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