Did you know that Sallie Helms '94 was presented
the Houston Woman's Magazine "HER" Award?
Houston Woman's Magazine presented Sallie Helms ’94 and several others with the "HER" Award on Wednesday, May 23. This award is the magazine's highest honor in Houston and is designed to recognize eight Houston women who influence and inspire those around them and, thereby, serve as excellent role models for others in our community. Below is the speech that was given by Susan Cooley, a friend and the nomination coordinator, in her honor at the award ceremony.
I am honored to stand here today representing the many people whose lives have been enriched by Sallie Helms. Her nomination was the result of many hearts, many heads and many hands. Stories came out of the woodwork on her behalf. It was unanimous - our teacher, our co-worker, our colleague, our patient, our therapist, our mother, our wife, our friend, our Firefly – Sallie Griffis Helms would be Houston Woman Magazine's 2012 Evolving Eve.
If the mark of wisdom is the ability to see the miraculous in the ordinary, Sallie Helms is wise beyond measure. By seeing and expecting miracles, Sallie's mere presence transforms everyone and everything around her. Sallie knows no strangers. She speaks to everyone she encounters. She is one of those rare individuals who makes the world a brighter place.
When faced with a life threatening illness, Sallie buckled down to complete the dissertation that she had worked toward for the last a decade. As her self-appointed nurse, I urged her to conserve energy, to play the "Cancer card." I said, Sallie, come on, "Just call up the school and tell them that you have worked hard enough", which, by the way, she had. But that was not good enough for Sallie. She was determined to earn her Doctorate the old fashioned way...through hard work.
Her dissertation chair, Dr. Irby said this about the awesome body of work she produced:
"Rather than patronizing the weak or disenfranchised, Dr. Helms' work focuses on experiences that enhance. Her dissertation was the culmination of one of the most complex and deep research methodologies I have ever observed. Her work will benefit children for years to come."
Sallie is kind, she is thoughtful, she is smart, she is faithful, she is diligent, AND, she is funny. These excerpts from her nomination best illustrate the characteristics that make Sallie, Sallie:
From a church friend:
"I truly believe Sallie is one of God’s angels among us. She has strength, endurance, and most importantly a servant’s heart."
"Because of Sallie, I try to be a nicer, kinder person."
From her niece:
"My amazing Aunt Sallie is authentic. She's the real deal. She has a way of connecting. She gives me her undivided attention. She fills me up with pearls of wisdom."
From one of her professors:
"Somehow each encounter with Sallie leaves you in a higher place, more worthy of honor than you had been before. The lens through which she views the world sees beauty and goodness in everyone, which tends to produce more beauty and goodness."
From her son:
"I have witnessed my mother listening to the voice of God, and in so doing she has taught me and my brother to do the same. Her small acts of kindness are remarkable and far reaching."
Her other son said this about his mom:
"My mother is filled with gratitude and wonder. But, above all else, what characterizes my mother most is her SMILE."
From her husband, Billy (and I paraphrase):
"Until recently, I didn't understand why Sallie spent so much time worrying about other people. She would drop off a get well card or little gift for no reason at all, and usually at a time that was inconvenient for me. When she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her selflessness came full circle. I learned a lesson...that it takes being a friend to have a friend. I realized that she, or perhaps God, had set Sallie up for this very moment. The very people she cared so much about all those years, the friends she calls her fireflies have enveloped Sallie, me and the boys with a degree of devotion and care that I never knew was possible. I am humbled in its presence."
And lest you think Sallie is perfect, consider this one from a former co-worker:
"Have I told you about the time Sallie's underwear caught fire?"
Lastly, from one of Sallie's countless girlfriends:
"Sallie is the embodiment of a firefly. She is childlike, she is mysteriously aglow. She sends prayers spiraling towards the heavens on behalf of each person she meets. And in return, we try to send just a little light her way."
Jim, the manager of her beloved Starbucks:
"We all tried to schedule our shifts around when we knew Sallie would be coming in. She is a breath of fresh air."
Sallie's philosophy is this:
"This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for the good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you left behind. Let it be something good."
Look around you. This room is filled with friends, family, colleagues, professors, patients, housekeepers, patient advocates, doctors, Starbucks managers – each one inspired in both large and small ways by Sallie Helms.
Humble beyond words, Sallie is a lifelong learner who meets each day with a combination of faith and humor. She is a work in progress – an "Evolving Eve."
Ladies and gentleman, I present to you our courageous friend and Firefly, Dr. Sallie Griffis Helms.
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