Executive Helps Our Local Community While Healing the World

Executive Helps Our Local Community While Healing the World

Chief Executive Officer of biotech research organization Rho, Laura Helms Reece discusses her career motivations and why Durham is the perfect place to raise her children


Photo by Briana Brough

Mother to daughters Elle, 7, and Gwyn, 4, and wife to city council member Charlie Reece, Laura wears many hats in her day-to-day. She and her brother, Russ Helms, are the CEOs of biotech research organization Rho. She was born and educated in Chapel Hill, having achieved her master’s and DrPH at UNC, and worked at Glaxo Inc. and AstraZeneca before settling at Rho in 2002. Close to nine years ago, Laura and Charlie decided to move from Carrboro to Durham, specifically the historic Hope Valley neighborhood, to put down roots.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Usually, what gets me out of bed is my daughter, Elle, announcing that it’s time to start the day. I’m not sure how I gave birth to an early bird. My day is a crazy mix of focusing on family and focusing on business. I absolutely love both, and I’m truly grateful to have the opportunity to balance the two. One of the blessings of my job is that I get to be part of the team that crafts a business where men and women can balance the joys of our personal lives with the joys of our work. Additionally, the work we do heals the world. That’s pretty awesome, even on a stressful day.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My grandmother, Klovia Wagner, repeatedly told me “much is required from those to whom much is given.” She, along with my parents [Ron and Mary Helms, who started Rho in 1984], instilled in me the belief that I have been truly blessed and have a responsibility to make the world a better place. I am raising my children with that same belief.

Tell us about your Durham life.

One of my favorite things to do is take my girls and try out different playgrounds around the city. Each girl has her favorite (Elle’s is Forest Hills Park and Gwyn’s is Piney Wood Park), but we also love to be explorers. I [enjoy] savoring a latte at Bull Street Gourmet & Market while Gwyn takes dance at Barriskill. This fall, my family got to experience a number of new-to-us neighborhoods around Durham while knocking on doors for Charlie’s campaign. Durham is full of wonderful spots!

Charlie and I moved to Durham when I was pregnant with our first daughter. We’d been married less than a year. Our marriage and our family have blossomed in Durham. We selected Durham as the right city in which to grow our business and raise our children. This is where we made our commitment as a family to be involved in the civic life of our city through public service. I want Elle and Gwyn to grow up in a Durham that is diverse and vibrant with great sports, great art and great places to experience the outdoors. We choose Durham for all that – and for the amazing food!

Photo by Briana Brough.