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Phi Mu Staple Creates Lasting Impression for Generations of Members

By Katherine Glenn
Hottytoddy.com intern

Working in a career surrounded by women can be hard for men, but working in a career surrounded by 400-plus young women presents even more challenges. However, Willie Burt has made it look easy for more than 30 years at the Phi Mu house at the University of Mississippi.

Willie Burt has been a staple at the Phi Mu house for more than 30 years. Photo by Sammy Stephens.

In many ways “Mr. Willie”, as he’s referred to, is the face of Phi Mu — even the sorority letters don his lime green Mustang convertible.

“I also have the Phi Mu letters on the back of my pick up truck,” he said, laughing.

Before joining the Phi Mu family, he served in the United States National Guard for 20 years and in the United States Marine Corps for three years. At Phi Mu, he started as a dishwasher in the 1980s and is now a handyman and kitchen assistant.

Mr. Willie and Sammy Stephens outside the Phi Mu House. Photo courtesy of Sammy Stephens.

For the young women of Phi Mu at Ole Miss, Mr. Willie creates a lasting impact and impression. Within a week of a collegiate getting an invitation to join Phi Mu, Mr. Willie already knows her name. Helping every sorority member feel right at home is what he does best.

“I love meeting all the girls and getting to know them. We create a special bond that extends to more than four years,” he said.

The women at Phi Mu love him all the same, even in times of sickness. 

“I’m known for sneaking popsicles to girls who live in the house when they are sick,” Mr. Willie said.

Chapter advisor Anne Cofer said when women are running to their new home on bid day they are not only gaining hundreds of new sisters but a built-in family with a remarkable staff.

“Willie is a great example of how a staff member has been a constant source of comfort and familiarity throughout the decades, especially for the students who are far from home,” Cofer said. 

Something special about Mr. Willie’s time at Phi Mu is that he has seen two generations of families come through the sorority. There are several active members and recent alumni whose mothers had Mr. Willie on their house staff during their college years. Margaret Hyer, a member of the 1987 pledge class, said her daughter pledged Phi Mu 27 years after she did, but she got to know Mr. Willie just the same.

“It’s now been 31 years since I first met Willie and he still knows my name, plus countless other Phi Mus who’ve come through the chapter house in these three decades,” Hyer said. “Seeing Willie at the house is always a highlight when I come back to visit Phi Mu.”

Mary Margaret Hyer, a 2018 graduate and current Phi Mu chapter consultant, said having the opportunity to share the Phi Mu experience with her mom has been special to her, which includes Mr. Willie.

“Mr. Willie is such an important part of both of our Phi Mu stories,” she said. “His laughs, his hugs, and his smiles meant so much to both of us during our college years, and he will forever be such a special person in both of our lives and memories.”

Mr. Willie is more than just a member of the staff at the Phi Mu house. Many of the women actually consider him a member of the sorority.

“I’m going to be here as long as I can,” he said.

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