Marvin Phillips Eulogy

In Memory of
Marvin W. Phillips
August 9, 1929 - September 3, 2000

presented by
Christian J. Johannsen
September 12, 2000

Marvin W. Phillips, 71, died at 9:30 p.m. Sunday, September 3, 2000 in Lafayette's Home Hospital. Dr. Phillips, Professor Emeritus of Agronomy, retired from Purdue University on June 30, 1994 after a 32-year distinguished career in Agronomy and the School of Agriculture.

You need to understand that Marvin W. Phillips was one of my best friends. Best friends are those with whom you like to spend time. You can recognize their voice at any time or any moment. We knew each other so well that we could finish each other's sentences.

Marvin Phillips was born on August 9, 1929 and reared on a farm near Salem, Indiana. He was active in the Future Farmers of America and received the American Farmer Degree, which is the highest award that an FFA member can achieve. His father passed away when he was 18 and he nearly decided to stay on the farm but was encouraged by his FFA instructor to go to Purdue. (Marv took his father on a regular basis to Louisville for cancer treatments during the year after High School. He took a year of Post High School courses during that year, purchased a home for his mother and moved her to town following his father's death.) He earned a BS in Agronomy at Purdue in 1953 and was married to Barbara "Bobbi" Chilton in that same year. Following two years of military service in the U.S. Army, he returned to Purdue and earned a Master's degree in Agronomy (1958), followed by the Ph.D. degree at the University of Minnesota in Soil Fertility and Chemistry in 1964.

Dr. Phillips returned to the Purdue Agronomy Department as assistant professor and Extension Soil Fertility Specialist and progressed through the professional ranks and was appointed as Head of the Agronomy Department in July, 1971. (Marv, once commented to me that a few months after he became Head, his best friend, meaning me, left the Department. He didn't think that this was a very good sign.) He served in that capacity for 20 years until July 1991. During the next three years he served as Special Assistant to the Dean of Agriculture on a half time basis and started full retirement in 1994. One of his retirement gifts was a golf package to play on many of the public courses in Indiana. (Those of you that knew him well know his passion for golf.)

As Agronomy Head, Dr. Phillips was known for his enthusiasm, positive approach, fairness, dedication and ability to create and maintain a collegial and supportive work environment. He is really recognized within the Department for creating a "family" attitude. (When Marv asked "how are you?" he really wanted to know how you were. Next he would ask about your family.) Some of the innovations adopted under his leadership included multi-media resource centers for crops, soils and remote sensing courses, teaching seminars for graduate teaching assistants, computer hardware and software to assist research, teaching and extension programs and the use of closed circuit television for delivery of courses and extension programs at off-campus locations.

Nationally, he was active in the US Department of Agriculture Task Force on Soybean Advancement, National Soybean Crop Improvement Advisory Board and served as a consultant on international projects in Brazil, Burkina Faso and Niger. (Frequently, Agronomy Faculty would be on assignment overseas and Marv and Bobbi would tape all of the televised Boilermaker football and basketball games and send them to these faculty and their families.)

Phillips was involved in the many committee and board activities of the American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America and the Crop Science Society. All three societies awarded him with the recognition of Fellow, their highest honor to an individual member. He has many other honors but the most recent was 1998 Purdue Agricultural Alumni Association's Certificate of Distinction award.

He was active in community affairs serving on the United Way in several capacities including the Finance Committee. In Rotary, he served as Chair and a member of many of the committees plus he served on the Board of Directors from 1981-1984. At our last Rotary Meeting, we learned that our Lafayette Rotary Foundation was 27 years old. Mary was a Charter Member and made a contribution to the Foundation during each of those 27 years.

A son, Gregory, preceded him in death in 1989. Surviving in addition to his wife are a daughter, Susan (husband: Steve Bart), and two grandchildren, Nicholas and Katherine.

Marv, I am really going to miss you!

--Chris J. Johannsen

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