Putting out fires and taking on the tough jobs, Nathan Helfrich is honored with the 2020 Integrity and Client Service Award

The Integrity and Client Service (ICS) Award is the highest annual honor bestowed upon a Cushing Terrell team member. Nicknamed “The Geno” after 54-year-tenured Gene Kolstad, the award is presented in December with a cash prize. Colleagues are nominated from across the firm, and the winner is judged on their excellence in three categories: honesty, compassion, and responsiveness.

Our 2020 ICS Award recipient is Nathan Helfrich. A project architect and associate in Bozeman, Montana, he’s been with Cushing Terrell for 15 years. Nathan is known by his clients and colleagues as someone in whom you can have great confidence; someone who truly listens and commits to his clients and their visions. He’s the person people call if things get tough — not only when it comes to overcoming challenges on projects, but also when friends and team members need a helping hand.

Nathan was selected out of 14 nominees, and this is not the first time he has been nominated. His level of dedication to his clients and their projects goes above and beyond in so many ways. When he takes on a project, he is all in, without a doubt.

Over the last four years, one of Nathan’s biggest projects has been the recently completed Gallatin High School in Bozeman. Staff, administrators, parents, students, and the community as a whole have expressed how proud they are of the new, cutting-edge school. Throughout the project, and as part of the ICS testimonial outreach, the client (Bozeman Public Schools) and project partners acknowledged how critical Nathan’s role was in ensuring it was a great success.

“From the very outset of the planning of Gallatin High School, Nathan was a key player on the team as a design architect. At that time, none of us knew he would become the ‘glue’ that would see the project through to completion.”

Steven D. Johnson
Deputy Superintendent of Operations
Bozeman Public Schools

Nathan took over as the project manager for Gallatin High School after the retirement of Bob Franzen, and he did Bob proud with his exceptional client care and attention to detail on this high-profile, multi-year project.

Nathan is pretty much the all-round great guy with some quirks thrown in for good measure. (Just ask him about pet mountain lions, illustrating children’s books, and “living lightly” on the land.) He is an incredible asset to our firm and to our Cushing Terrell family.

HISTORY OF CUSHING TERRELL'S ICS AWARD

Back in 2008, Cushing Terrell constructed a vision statement to help govern firm goals over the following five years. The effort was driven — and much of the language was crafted — by then-principal and project manager/architect Gene Kolstad out of Cushing Terrell’s Billings office. The list of seven goals dealt largely with issues of integrity, character, and client service. With visions of the Academy Awards and Oscar statuettes dancing in their heads, the ratifying committee dreamed up an annual award to present to the Cushing Terrell employee who most exemplified these ideals.

The accompanying trophy, “The Geno” (after Kolstad, who is noted for his commitment to the principles the award celebrates) was inspired by one of Kolstad’s passions: masonry. Hence, the large, heavy, traveling trophy features Montana-sourced travertine (from the original installation at a long-time client, Billings Clinic) with one of Kolstad’s trowels partially embedded — an homage to the Arthurian legend of the sword in the stone. Staff in the Great Falls office built a “mini Fort Knox” (exceptionally secure) traveling case that safely moves the award from recipient-to-recipient each year.

“Half the fun of bestowing the award is discretely delivering the award case, early, to the respective office, and keeping it under wraps,” former committee member (now-retired) Ken Richardson once said.

The Geno is now presented each December to the winner of the Integrity and Client Service (ICS) Award, alongside a cash prize. A selection committee — dubbed “the Posse” — which always includes the previous year’s recipient, convenes annually to select the winner. Nominees from across the firm are listed in an evaluation tabulation spreadsheet and graded in three categories: honesty, compassion, and responsiveness. The highest score for each category is 30, 50, and 40, respectively, with a total possible high score of 120. Fellow Cushing Terrell team members complete ICS nomination forms, many with attached letters of appreciation from internal and external clients, and send them to the Posse. Their spreadsheet is then populated and the scoring begins.

Former Cushing Terrell Great Falls mechanical engineer Gary Morris was the initial recipient at the end of 2010, and the ICS Award has been presented each year since. Last year, Alan Anseth of Cushing Terrell Billings was the winner.

Read more on the history of the concept of “integrity” on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

What Others Say About Nathan

“Nathan set the bar for our team to approach the project (Gallatin High School) with honesty, compassion, and responsiveness. He continued to hold us all accountable to maintain these qualities so everyone could be successful. Finding common ground is one of the great strengths Nathan brings to all projects.”

Roger Davis
Senior Project Manager
Langlas General Contractors

 

“Working alongside Nathan on challenging projects over the years has brought to light his consistent strengths of never sacrificing quality or integrity and having fun along the way. There’s no question that when he says he’s going to do something, it will be completed with accuracy and meaning for both clients and team members.”

Sky Cook
Architect | Associate
Cushing Terrell

 

“Because of his strong character, commitment, and diplomacy, Nathan is continually handed challenging projects and repeatedly delivers them. He is often the one people turn to “to put out the fires.” He does not shy away from tough conversations. He is honest and fair. Clients, contactors, and teammates trust him, and he earns that trust every day by staying true to his unwavering ethics.”

Alex Russell
Mechanical Engineer | Associate
Cushing Terrell

“I’ve known Nathan since 1996. I can’t think of a time when he has been in a situation requiring honesty and integrity where he has not chosen to do the right thing. I’ve never seen Nathan consider how he will look in these situations. It’s as if that option shuts off in his brain and he goes outside of himself to determine the right solution for the problem in front of him.”

“Nathan’s integrity goes beyond face-to-face interactions with the client and his team. He consistently puts in extra time reviewing drawings for accuracy and assuring proper coordination. He does not accept second best from himself or the drawing sets he’s responsible for. Yet, he always extends grace and compassion should others make a mistake.

“While building our home, he offered to help me set our trusses. This was a job that should’ve taken two hours. I rushed while we were setting them and did not properly brace them off. As a result, they all dumped over. It took us six more hours after that to set every truss a second time by hand. He never complained, just got to solving the problem and stayed with me till the job was done. This is how he lives, and I can’t remember him ever asking for anything in return.”

Jimmy Talarico
Design Professional | Associate
Cushing Terrell

 

“Nathan has the endurance of the solar system; you just can’t knock the guy down.”

Ted Conover
Project Manager | Architect | Associate
Cushing Terrell

From Nathan Himself

What does the ICS Award represent to you?

Author C. S. Lewis stated: “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

I believe integrity is more of a silent attribute, but interestingly, when exercised, resonates loudly and is contagious. Inspiration is a bi-product of integrity, and I can think of no higher compliment than to hear that I’ve inspired someone to do better because of my integrity. Exhibiting integrity is something we all can do.

Integrity and client service are directly intertwined. Without integrity, we can’t expect to be followed, we can’t be trusted to lead our clients through the creative process, and we can’t inspire those around us to perform at their highest level. With integrity, the rest of the pieces just fall into place. We have teammates and clients relying on us all the time, underscoring the importance of integrity.

During my career at Cushing Terrell, I’ve had the privilege of working with several of our past ICS Award recipients. These individuals consistently display professionalism, responsiveness, concise communication, and most of all, follow through on responsibilities and promises made. No matter the challenge, they trudge ahead, unwavering, toward the end goal of delivering a high-quality product for our clients. After all, that’s what we are in the business of doing.

How do you feel about winning the award, and to what do you attribute it?

With so many worthy nominees, it’s both shocking and gratifying to win this award. I’m honored to join the ICS ranks, and it has given me cause to reflect on my professional development. While the ICS award is an individual recognition, it wouldn’t be fair for me to take sole credit for this award or for the successes I’ve enjoyed. Individuals can be ambassadors but alone cannot provide great client service in an industry as complex as ours. I would have fallen flat if it weren’t for the support of tremendous teams, advocates (including those who nominated me for this award), clients, and mentors throughout my career. For this, I’m in a debt of gratitude.

Through the years, I’ve leaned heavily on my fellow Cushing Terrellers to produce quality documents, adhere to stringent schedules, and look out for the best interests of our clients. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance I’ve relied on you or a contribution you’ve made to our firm along the way.

You’re on the selection committee now. What will you be looking for in next year’s ICS Award winner?

I’m excited to see the list of nominees next year and get to know them better. Of course, providing top-notch service to our clients will be pivotal, but I would also like to see nominees who inspire those around them to bring a high level of professionalism to their work each day.

A Final Note From Cushing Terrell President Greg Matthews

Reading through the thoughtful, detailed testimonials that came in for Nathan — from Cushing Terrell team members, clients, and partners — I was overwhelmed. Nathan, you’re admired beyond belief. We’re incredibly fortunate that you joined our firm 15 years ago: you’ve become one of our most trusted and talented project architects. We’re lucky to have you represent who we are as a firm and the work we deliver. Congratulations!

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