W&L’s Legendary Volunteers: Phifer Helms ’74 Kaylin Jury ’24 interviewed Phifer Helms ’74 to learn more about his service and commitment to Washington and Lee.
W&L alumni give their time to their alma mater in many ways, including serving as class agents, on reunion committees, as chapter leaders and on advisory boards. This winter, the Development Ambassadors, Annual Giving’s student volunteers, interviewed some of the university’s longtime, high-achieving, legendary volunteers.
Kaylin Jury ’24 interviewed Phifer Helms ’74 to learn more about his service and commitment to Washington and Lee.
Volunteer Roles: Helms has served in numerous volunteer roles at W&L, including work on reunion committees, area campaign committees, with the Charlotte Alumni Chapter and the Alumni Admissions Program. He was president of the Alumni Board and has 14 years of leadership under his belt as a class agent.
W&L Background: Helms majored in natural sciences and mathematics and was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He was also co-captain of the track and field team.
Career: Helms retired from Wells Fargo in 2021 after a long career in banking. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, he worked for RBC Centura and Bank of America in various roles.
“If we have touched the ‘W&L Ideal,’ as Dean James Graham Leyburn described it — excellence, lifelong learning, honor, service and civility — it is incumbent on us to leave Washington and Lee University better than we found it. Non Incautus Futuri.”
~ Phifer Helms ’74
Q: How did you first get involved in volunteering for W&L as an alumnus?
I first got involved as a chapter volunteer. Later, I took on the class agent role because I saw there was a need, and I stepped up. I felt a strong inclination to give back, and this seemed like a great way to do it.
Q: What inspired you to become a volunteer?
I was always drawn to getting involved and engaging with W&L, and I tried to encourage others to give back in a form that works best for them, whether it be with their time or their resources.
I feel a responsibility to give back in any way that I can. Knowing the depth of impact that W&L has had on my life, I want to ensure that current students have that same enriching experience.
Q: What has been your proudest moment as a W&L volunteer?
I have two proudest moments as a W&L volunteer. The first was my incredible good fortune to be the president of W&L’s Alumni Association in 1999, which happened to be the university’s 250th anniversary. I got to be involved in all the celebration events and was on campus numerous times that year. It all culminated in an event in the Lenfest Center that was televised for alumni chapter gatherings around the country. It was simply awesome.
The second proudest moment was a program that we arranged in 2016 for W&L’s George Washington Society, a former organization for W&L emeriti volunteers. The event took place at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and included speakers at the George Washington Library and a brief memorial service at Washington’s tomb.
Q: When were you last on campus?
I came to campus in fall 2021 for the All-Volunteer Weekend. Before that, I attended my 45th reunion in 2019. I have spent a good deal of time in Lexington over the years, as all three of my daughters are also graduates. My wife and I attended plenty of Parents and Family Weekend events, and we love to visit Blue Sky Bakery whenever we come to town. We are always looking for an excuse to visit Lexington!
Q: Why should alumni consider giving their time as a volunteer for W&L?
Washington and Lee provides countless opportunities and creates a wonderful atmosphere for learning. I have witnessed first-hand the amazing benefits of the W&L experience. Our time that we give, the resources and support we contribute, helps make all of it possible. To whom much is given, much is required. If we have touched the “W&L Ideal,” as Dean James Graham Leyburn described it —excellence, lifelong learning, honor, service and civility — it is incumbent on us to leave Washington and Lee University better than we found it. Non Incautus Futuri.