Helen Mills Rust

1914 - 1994

Helen Mills Rust, pianist and choir director, taught music in Seventh-day Adventist schools for over forty years. Over half of those years were spent at Fletcher Academy, a self-supporting school in North Carolina.

Helen was born and raised in Hinsdale, Illinois, the older of two children born to Albert E. and Jane E. Mills. She attended and graduated from the Hinsdale Sanitarium Academy, later Hinsdale Academy. Following graduation as valedictorian of her class in 1932, she studied music at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.

In 1937 she was invited to assist Clarence Dortch in teaching music at Southwestern Junior College, now Southwestern Adventist University, in Texas. In addition to teaching piano to young children and beginners and accompanying Dortch's choirs, she also conducted the women's chorus, the Symphonettes, and was a member of the lyceum committee. One of her more interesting assignments was accompanying Burton L. Jackson, a Chicago marimba virtuoso, when he performed at SWJC in the fall of 1939.

While at SWJC, she became acquainted with William Rust, a theology student and member of the bass section in the choir. After he transferred to Washington Missionary College, now Washington Adventist University, to finish his degree, she later followed, and in 1940 they married. They had two children: John, who died shortly after graduating from academy, and Sandra Jean, who married Harry Branson.

In December of 1940 they were called to serve at Vincent Hill School in India, he to be dean of men and she to teach music. The following July they were released from that call and instead accepted similar positions at Campion Academy in Colorado, where she served for the next fifteen years.

In 1956 Rust became head of the music department at Fletcher Academy, where she taught piano and directed the choir for the next 22 years. When she retired in 1978, the school yearbook was dedicated to her with admiration for the "tremendous job" she had done in leading the choir and the role she played in their lives:

. . . you are also a constant inspiration to us as students. You have taken so much interest in our problems, our difficulties, and our joys, and your motherly concern and prayers for us have caused us to think of you not only as a choir director but as a true friend whom we love and admire.

Rust was living in the Collegedale, Tennessee, area, when she died at age 80.


Sources: 1930 U.S. Federal Census records; The Life Boat, June/July 1932, 189,190; The Southwestern Union of SDA magazine, The Record: 22 September 1937, 8; 3 May 1939, 7; 23 August 1939, 7; 22 November 1939, 6; 17 July 1940, 7; Southern Tidings, 7 June 1939, 7; 12 April 1961; Washington Missionary College (now Washington Adventist University) school paper, The Sligonian; 30 August 1940; The Journal of True Education, June 1941, 28; Central Union Record, 2 September 1941 (Campion Academy); Social Security Death Index; information provided by Klaus Leukert, May 2011.