October 1, 2022

Alums Establish Mental Health Endowment in Friend’s Honor

Two years ago, Jake Kelly received a humorous text from his friend and former University of Mary Washington roommate, Phil Smith. But, just a week later, Jake and friends Jonathan Wigginton and Jeremy Wood, all 2010 alums, were shocked to learn that Phil had taken his own life.

2010 graduates Jeremy Wood, Jonathan Wigginton, Phil Smith, and Jake Kelly. When Phil took his life in 2020, his friends worked with Mary Washington to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment to provide more mental health and suicide prevention resources to UMW students.

2010 graduates Jeremy Wood, Jonathan Wigginton, Phil Smith, and Jake Kelly. When Phil took his life in 2020, his friends worked with Mary Washington to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment to provide more mental health and suicide prevention resources to UMW students.

“It totally hit us out of the blue,” says Jake, who returned to UMW with Jonathan to speak to incoming freshmen during Orientation, right before September’s Suicide Prevention Month. “We asked ourselves questions we couldn’t answer. Why did he do it? What did we miss?”

What they did know is that they wanted to memorialize Phil at Mary Washington, where their friendship began during their first week of classes. And they wanted his death to help spark discussions about mental health and suicide prevention.

With the blessing of Phil’s family, they began working with UMW’s Office of Advancement to establish the Phil Smith ’10 Talley Center Endowment, which will provide more counseling services, education and training, and other resources for current and future Mary Washington students. The endowment is on the verge of being fully funded, thanks to many generous donors, including Betty Dobbins Talley ’68 – her significant gift gave the Talley Center for Counseling Services its name – who gave $5,000 on Giving Tuesday in 2021 as part of a dollar-for-dollar match.

UMW also announced this week the rollout of an after-hours and weekend service through ProtoCall. Students now can access critical counseling care through the Talley Center as well as outside licensed professionals, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We have already seen an unprecedented volume of students coming in to see us, certainly in response to Jake and Jonathan’s presentation to freshmen,” says Talley Center Director Tevya Zukor. “As a firm believer that proactive treatment and intervention are the best way to prevent crises, it has been gratifying to see so many Eagles attending to their mental health needs.” Read more.