Campaign Profiles: Peter G. Helie
Peter G. Helie '72 grew up with a mother who was a real go-getter. While raising four children primarily on her own, Geraldine M. Helie worked in the fashion industry of the 1950s as a buyer for Saks Fifth Avenue and as the owner of several innovative businesses. "She was a value-driven person," says Helie. "There were values on how you behave, how you work, how you treat people." His mother also had this mantra: "Learn to do everything yourself because no one's going to do it for you."
Geraldine Helie passed away a year and a half ago and, in her honor and in appreciation for all the life lessons she passed on to him, Peter Helie made a pledge to Leadership for the 21st Century: The Campaign for Springfield College in the amount of $6,000 per year for five years to create the Geraldine M. Helie Scholarship. Through it, Helie is passing on a lesson of his own: Students who receive the scholarship each year must be involved in community service, in addition to maintaining their grades. "I think I'm teaching students to give back," he says.
Helie, who earned a bachelor of science degree from the College in 1972 and immediately went into the real estate business, owns Prudential Connecticut Realty -- which sold $5 billion in 2004 -- has always given back to Springfield College. But his gift to the campaign catapulted him from the Massasoit Club all the way to the President's Council.
He says the death of his mother and the fact a development officer from the College had just contacted him to discuss the launch of the campaign made the gift serendipitous. "The school was good to me," says the 55-year-old who lives in Southport, Conn., with his wife Susan and is father of a 30-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old stepson. "The school gave me financial aid, which I used along with money I earned selling real estate to pay for my degree. If you're going to take, you've got to give back.
For Helie, giving back is not a new concept. In his community, he was bestowed with the elite Prudential Broker of the Year Award for his outstanding leadership and philanthropic involvement. He is a founder of the VISION Group and a member of the Board of Directors for The Realty Alliance. He is also very active as the head of board development for the Stamford Boys and Girls Club, and he supports the Sunshine Kids, which provides travel experiences for children with cancer.
Helie says going to Springfield College provided a cultural experience for him. He grew up in a small, homogenous community in Connecticut, where he was a big fish in a small pond. But at Springfield, he was a small fish in a big pond, where students were multicultural and had different social and economic backgrounds. The College's Humanics philosophy helped to shape him. "I learned there was a bigger world out there. I learned there are different opinions and ideologies. You have to be sensitive to them and understand them," he says. "You've got to be flexible."
Helie doesn't just recite these words; he lives by them. His business, with its 63 offices across Connecticut and Rhode Island and a staff of more than 2,000, is guided by core values that are in the realm of Springfield College's spirit, mind, and body philosophy. Those values include authenticity, service, empowerment, relationship, and growth.
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