TULSA, Oklahoma - Tulsa businessman and philanthropist Walter Helmerich III is dead at 88. The former president of Helmerich & Payne, a Tulsa-based energy exploration and production company, died Tuesday, January 10, 2012.

His death was announced during a Tulsa City Council meeting Tuesday.

Services will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, January 13, 2012, at Boston Avenue United Methodist Church.

His father started the drilling firm in 1920. Helmerich took the company's reins in 1960.

He held that post for nearly three decades, weathering oil booms and busts, tripling his company's wealth, expanding their reach, and catapulting it on to the world stage.

That spotlight made him the target of a criminal in 1974, when he was kidnapped and held at gunpoint for hours, while waiting on a $700,000 ransom.

Helmerich & Payne is now one of the world's largest drilling manufacturers and operators. The company issued a statement on his passing Tuesday afternoon.

Helmerich served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1948 and at one time planned to be a college professor.

Instead, he went to Harvard Business School at the request of his father. Helmerich married actress Peggy Dow in 1951. The couple, married 60 years, has five sons.

Walter and his wife Peggy Dow Helmerich have long been benefactors of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma.

"All the great things he did. The big things, the small things, all done from the generosity of his heart. And he never quit. He did it up until his last few days," remarked Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

Helmerich was the sole trustee of the Helmerich Foundation charitable trust, created in 1965. The Tulsa Parks system, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa Public Schools and secondary education institutions in Oklahoma are just a few of the organizations that have benefited from his generosity.

The philosophy behind his generosity: "If you are fortunate to be in a position where you can give, that's a blessing."

The foundation has given millions to beautify the city, support the local schools, colleges and universities and health care facilities.

"Walt was not only a great businessman but also a benefactor to Tulsa whose influence is unparalleled. His contributions are vast, not the least of which includes his dedication to our city park system, children and families," said Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

"My prayers are with his family and my thanks to Walt Helmerich, for his impact on this community is infinite."