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Jim Solari

Jim Solari

Led G&W Electric Co. | Distinguished Alumni Award | Class of 1977

Forty years later, Jim Solari still remembers the course — “Professor Stan Helm’s Power System Analysis class in the old EE Building across from the Union. As an EE major in power systems, I had a few classes with him but this was the first one. I think it was EE 276.

“It was the first heavy theory course we had in the department,” says the past president of Bolingbrook-based G&W Electric Company, “and Professor Helm was a legend. And an intimidating one at that.

“Think of him as a cross between Mike Ditka and Professor Kingsfield (John Houseman’s character in ‘The Paper Chase.’)

“And his classroom wasn’t much different that a Kingsfield lecture. If you weren’t prepared, your ego needed to be intact.

“But what was most memorable was his teaching philosophy that he cited every few classes:

‘I’m not teaching you to analyze power systems, I’m teaching you to solve problems. Problems you’ll encounter in your career that you can’t even dream of as you sit here.’

“And the memory always plays in my head in Kingsfield’s voice. It’s probably the best lesson I learned as an undergrad.

“And as it turns out, as I got to know Professor Helm, especially as an alum — he couldn’t have been a more gracious and caring man. He was one the many exceptional faculty that make the U of I such a great learning institution,” says Solari, a 2016 Electrical and Computer Engineering distinguished alumni award recipient.