Teachable moment

Ed Hellenbeck’s marketing class is tough, but students love it.

Ed Hellenbeck

When a cell phone goes off in the classroom, Ed Hellenbeck allows one infraction. If it goes off again, he takes 5 points off the student’s final grade.

Mix together a lot of energy with a little edge and you’ve got business professor Ed Hellenbeck. He spent 20 years as a vice president and manager at Unum, a major player in the disability insurance field. Much of that time he worked in marketing and customer service, a background that carries over in how he listens to students and meets their needs while demanding they perform at a high standard.


“They know I won’t accept mediocrity. They
know they can’t get away with anything and that they’ll have to work.

I push them so they can produce more than they thought they could.

I don’t let them fly under the radar.

They tell me they like the humor. And they like real-world examples.

“I’m good at picking who I can say certain things to…the ones who can take it and give it back.

Admitting you’re wrong is powerful.

We establish class values together.

I always try to say “that’s a great point” when someone makes a good comment.

I write long letters to those who excel.

You have to be a human being with them. I can’t operate otherwise.

Ed Hellenbeck and student

In the classroom, Ed Hellenbeck’s hallmarks are fairness, reliable benchmarks, positive reinforcement – and lots of humor.

I can’t tell you how much power there is in narrative, in story. I share my personal experiences with them. They know me. They know my history, my struggles. I tell them how I failed at my first management job and why.

I tell them how I got a 70s average in high school, didn’t go to college right away and landed in Vietnam.

I authentically like them. I relate to them on their level.

I’m hard on them, but I have empathy for what’s going on in their lives.

I never teach the same class twice.

I learn something in every class. I have a teaching file. I put notes in there on things that need tweaking.

To make them successful, you have to deliver hard messages. I try to be blatantly honest with them.

They have to trust me. If they don’t, they’re suspicious of the content and the process. How do you build trust? For me, I know their names, I say hello in the hall, I make a comment to them about them.

Students like to be recognized. If they got a 95 on a quiz, I tell them they can ace it next time.

Deliver on commitments. Get papers back in one week if you say one week, and if you say I’ll meet you at 1, be there at 1.

They believe I have their best interest at heart and are therefore willing to go the extra mile for me.”


Jeff Ferguson '08
Communications major
Northwood, N.H.

"I found Ed to be one of the most challenging and interesting teachers I have ever had. He would always expect a business-like demeanor from all of his students, so much so that when we did a presentation, it was expected that we show up in a shirt and tie.

Ed Hellenbeck and student

He stays connected: Ed Hellenbeck lunched with several alumni and attended a former student’s wedding last summer.

He pushed me to succeed, and didn't take no for an answer. If he had an issue with the way you were doing something, he didn't beat around the bush - he told you, oftentimes right in front of the class. But on the flip side, if you ever needed help ... he would always be there to help you.

Ed was everything I never expected in a college professor ... my experience in those two courses made them two of my favorite classes."

Kimberly Wallace '08
Management major
Northport, Maine

"I loved Ed's class because ... there was never a dull moment. He gave examples of products and companies that are well-known and constantly made jokes with the class. He would yell and be loud, and there was really no way that you could not pay attention to what he was saying.

I would describe his teaching style as interactive. While he is providing the students with a lot of information, he almost always encourages participation.

Ed's sense of humor is what makes his classes so enjoyable. He really builds relationships with the students, whether making a joke or teasing them.

While the information was interesting, he made his tests and quizzes very hard. You really had to know your stuff to do well.

I believe he is passionate about what he does .... He jokes around a lot, but can also be very serious.

Over the summer he got me a contact at Unum, which helped secure an internship for this fall.

I think most students really respect him."

Stephan Gorsun '09
Marketing major
South Berwick, Maine

"The great thing about any of Ed's classes is that you can be sitting in a classroom for two hours and not even realize it ... because the class itself is so captivating.

Ed Hellenbeck

Ed Hellenbeck says being a Marine taught him to be professional and go beyond mediocre. Now he urges his business students to do the same.

Ed's sense of humor is my favorite part of his classroom environment. It is great to be able to joke around with him and have some laughs in class ... it really adds a level of comfort to his classes that makes his students open up to the material he presents.

I've never been challenged more in my academic career than I have been through writing papers in some of Ed's advanced marketing classes. He expects well-thought-out, professional and accurate work ....

He is a man of integrity, honesty and compassion, and if you're willing to work hard, he will do anything he can to help you be successful .... Ed is one of the biggest reasons I decided to become a marketing major.

I knew through his classes that I would be prepared for a real job when the time came to graduate.

He has been incredibly helpful when it has come to finding internships, writing recommendations, referring me to positions on campus and just being there when I have needed to talk about anything.

I can't say enough about his willingness to go out of his way for students."