Last week, Allen, Althia, and I had the honor of traveling 1600+ miles from Jamaica to New Orleans, Louisiana, to be a part of a dear friend’s defining moment. Our personal friend and an ACE spiritual mother, Helen Delaney – or as we call her, Pastor Helen – invited us to be part of this grand celebration. Even though we were only there for less than 24 hours, it was a day for all of us to remember. Helen has been a staple at ACE for years, leading our many American and Jamaican ladies in a spiritual journey every February in Jamaica through our Men & Women’s Conference. But we knew there was more to her story.

Before ACE and Helen found each other, this remarkable lady had quite a different yet successful life. Growing up in the Civil Rights years, Helen was one of the brave women of color who believed in what the Bible teaches: that ALL people are created equal. Raised in a time when women lacked equal rights, it was also an era of segregation where Black people were required to drink from certain water fountains, sit in only certain areas and not allowed to attend certain schools. Helen got to see the brave in her race, finding courage to stand up and question why she was treated differently.

She embraced opportunities amid obstacles, even walking with Dr. King as he challenged the system in Mississippi. With an undergraduate degree of HBCU in Mathematics at Xavier University, she graduated as the first African American female nuclear engineer with a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. Among many of her accomplishments, Helen worked on the Peacekeeper Missile that is currently on display in the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

In her own words, “I know what if feels like to be different- the first, the youngest, the only woman, and the only African American in various settings. But this resume has given me a platform like nothing I could have ever imagined…. Life is about mastering how to best respond to moments of significant decisions. And even if circumstances are forced on us, we can still choose how to respond to those circumstances… the responses have led me to a life free from victimhood to the life I was born to live – a rewarding life that is uniquely uncommon to most.”

Speeding forward, the Audia Companies heard Helen’s story through her daughter, Adia Delaney-Jackson, who works for one of the Audia companies.  As an engineer, educator, and minister, Helen’s story of perseverance while facing overwhelming obstacles inspired the Audia company to have a bronze bust sculpted and donate to Xavier University.

As Helen addressed the student body and invited guests, she used words we had come to expect and cherish from this remarkably humble woman: that it was only through God that she was able to succeed and be grateful.

ACE has been so fortunate to be a part of Pastor Helen’s and George’s life. We thank them for their generous ways of making time over the many years for all of us at ACE. Role models are not hard to find when you look at one’s history and life journey. Thank you for the invitation and for considering ACE an important part of your mentorship program.