Rappahannock Community College will hold its 45th annual Commencement ceremony on Friday, May 12 at the Warsaw Campus. While the college will award a record number of degrees and certificates, there is one “student” who stands out for her contributions to the College for so many years. Helen Turner Murphy, who served on the original local board for RCC in 1969, will be presented with an honorary degree.
Helen Turner Murphy, a Westmoreland County resident, is originally from Richmond and graduated from Sweet Briar College in 1956 magna cum laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Shortly after graduation, Helen married Northern Neck native, Tayloe Murphy. The couple moved back to the area in the mid-1960s and Tayloe started practicing law in Warsaw. Meanwhile, Helen dove into community activities with her characteristic energy and capability and she would soon earn a beloved place in the hearts of her neighbors and among civic organizations for which she volunteered.
Along with Helen’s appointment to the founding RCC local board in 1969, she served when RCC held its first graduation in June 1973; 40 degrees and 11 certificates were conferred. She served on the board until 1982 and was an active member and local advocate of the College.
Helen is also a tireless activist for the educational and environmental well-being of the Northern Neck and the Commonwealth of Virginia. She was a founding member of The Garden Club of the Northern Neck and served as the President of the Garden Club of Virginia from 1992 to 1994.
Helen served as President of the Menokin Foundation, created in 1994 to save and interpret the historic home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. She has served on a staggering number of boards, including those of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Virginia Historical Society, The Virginia Nature Conservancy, Saint Margaret’s School, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Preservation Alliance of Virginia, and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
In 1999, Helen was awarded Volunteer of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Central Virginia Chapter for her nonprofit work across the Commonwealth. The Garden Club of Virginia awarded both Helen and Tayloe the Massie Medal in 2002 for their efforts in environmental protection and conservation. The Massie Medal for Distinguished Achievement is the oldest and most prestigious award given by the Club.