With Incredible Sorrow We Say Good-Bye To an Unforgettable Man – Dr. Philip Phibbs

Dr. Philip Phibbs

In 2009, Dr. Phibbs and his wife Gwen made their home at Franke Tobey Jones where he continued to offer his remarkable insight and leadership in advancing the continuum of quality care on our campus.  Chairing the Capital Campaign Committee from 2017 to 2019, he played a strategic and instrumental role in securing a one-million-dollar grant from the Milgard Foundation, as well as philanthropic gifts from numerous members of the community to ensure funding for the new Care Center.  It was only appropriate that at the opening day reception, he was asked to help cut the ribbon.

“I had the wonderful opportunity of attending our Capital Campaign Committee meetings,” says Christine Hall, FTJ Senior Director of Marketing.  “In these meetings I witnessed Dr. Phibbs’ skill in assembling people for a common goal, and his kind and gracious way of doing business.”  Former FTJ Director of Philanthropy, Kelly Merry, who worked alongside Dr. Phibbs to raise money for the new FTJ Care Center, says, “I am saddened to hear of Dr. Phibbs passing.  He was so kind to me while I was at FTJ, and he was a mentor.”

“Just a month ago I was blessed to have an in-depth conversation with Dr. Phibbs,” said Ms. Hall.  “He had wanted to speak with me about how much he loved our new Care Center, and gushed at length about the quality of construction, wonderful activities, delicious food and beautiful gardens.  He was just so pleased with EVERYTHING.  At the time I thought, what a unique situation.  Here is the man that helped envision a new, innovative Care Center, helped raise the funds to build it, cut the ribbon when we opened the building, and it was where he spent the last few weeks of his life.  I was absolutely thrilled that what he had envisioned was what we built, and that he was so happy living there.  I remember when we were planning the building, he was incredibly passionate about preserving the dignity of our residents.  They need the highest level of care and deserve the best quality of life possible, both accessible in our Care Center.  Nothing made me happier than knowing that Dr. Phibbs was able to experience dignity and a good quality of life to the very end.”

“Since moving in I’ve looked at every nook and cranny of this building and it’s phenomenal!” commented Dr. Phibbs.  “Residents in care areas are not locked up.  Because there are secure outside courtyards for memory care residents, they have the freedom to walk outside.  It makes it a “real” place, its real life…not like a prison where you can’t get out.  There is the entire scope of life that residents can enjoy.  They can see lots of flowers, hear the birds, breathe and feel the fresh air.  There are beautiful plants making it a lovely place to live.  We take walks all over campus and it’s beautiful!  There is access to wonderful activities and the food is GOOD!  Plus, you’re not alone.  There are other residents, activities, things to see and areas to explore.  All these things help make the FTJ Care Center special and unique.  It’s innovative and far ahead of its time.”

Shortly after Dr. Phibbs passing, we received a letter from the current University of Puget Sound President, Isiaah Crawford.  “There is simply no way to adequately express how influential Dr. Phibbs was in shaping the university we know and love today.  During his service as Puget Sound’s eleventh president from 1973-1992, he was the driving force behind the university’s development as a selective liberal arts college focused on academic excellence.  His accomplishments include the establishment of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; creation of our independently governed board of trustees; the building of Thompson Hall, and raising $47.6 million for the Centennial Campaign in 1988; and the growth of the endowment from $6 million to $56 million at the time of his retirement.  He also held board leadership roles in many organizations including the Seattle Opera, the Museum of Glass, the Association of American Colleges, the American Political Science Association, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church.  And of course, he did all this with his wife Gwen by his side, every bit as active in and committed to the success of Puget Sound as her husband (and the only presidential spouse to be awarded an honorary degree).   We are privileged to count their granddaughter among our alumni and their grandson as a current student.  I was honored that Dr. Phibbs was able to participate in my inauguration, along with Presidents Emeriti Susan Resneck Pierce and Ron Thomas. Truly, we stand on the shoulders of giants.”

According to the Tacoma News Tribune, ten years into his presidency, the university established the Philip M. Phibbs Distinguished Professorship in Politics and Government.  In 1990, construction was completed on the campus’s 10th residence hall and dedicated as Phibbs Hall in 1992.

Our Franke Tobey Jones campus was certainly enriched by Dr. Phibbs as he forged many friendships and left his legacy of the new Care Center.  “Phil was my boss for most of my 25 years at the University of Puget Sound, where I started and led the Physical Therapy program under his administration as University President,” says resident Shelby Clayson.  “He was absolutely amazing to work with and supported the PT program 100 percent.  I was very excited when Phil and Gwen moved to Franke Tobey Jones, just down the street from me.  It was a privilege and a blessing to become real friends in retirement.”

“We will all remember Dr. Phibbs as a kind and gracious man who above all loved his family, and who served the Tacoma community for decades,” says FTJ President and CEO Judy Dunn.  “His presence will be felt at FTJ for generations to come.  We were honored to celebrate his life at FTJ during our March Celebration of Life Bell Ringing with family, friends and staff present.”

The public can attend an in-person memorial service Saturday, April 9, at 1 p.m., in Kilworth Memorial Chapel. Attendees must be current on COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters or have a negative day-of COVID-19 test result and wear an N-95 mask while in attendance.

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