Throughout her life, Helen Davis has strived for peace and justice for all people. As the Executive Director of the Campus YMCA at Washington University in St. Louis from 1976-1995, Helen was instrumental in shaping the lives of two decades of Washington University students.
According to Washington University alumnus Andrew Selee, “Everyone I continue to be in contact with who volunteered at the Campus Y during this period describes it as the most important experience that shaped their future commitments to community and ethical values.”
Under her leadership, the Campus Y became a diverse and vibrant community of students, who learned about critical social issues and contributed service to the broader community. Through almost two dozen student-led programs, Helen encouraged students to embrace the ethic of service, diversity and commitment to one’s community.
Working for social justice has always been one of Helen’s passions. In Kansas, she was an active member of the NAACP and co-organized a civil rights demonstration in the ‘60s. Since 1990, she has been a national facilitator for racial justice workshops in the United Church of Christ. She has also been a strong advocate for women’s rights and gender equality, working with Reproductive Health Services and Planned Parenthood.
Since her retirement in 1995, Helen continues to actively support social justice in the St. Louis Community. She serves St. Louis through her strong commitment to interracial and interfaith understanding; active contributions to both the YMCA and her faith community; and many other volunteer activities in the region. Currently she is working within her church, Pilgrim Congregational, United Church of Christ, toward its becoming officially “Open and Affirming” of persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.
To paraphrase William Arthur Ward, each of us has the ability to kindle the flame of faith and light the lamp of love, so that we can unlock the doors of fear and step out into the street of service. This is precisely what Helen Davis has done throughout her life and what she continues to do and model. She kindles the flame in others and serves as a trailblazer for peace, justice and service.