Deloris Jordan Phillips was dedicated to building relationships and giving people opportunities.
Phillips joined the faculty of Western Michigan University in 1972 where she served as an instructor and adviser in the School of Social Work. She retired as an associate professor in 1996.
"She was a tough teacher," says Dr. Gary Matthews, WMU professor of social work. "She believed in helping people push themselves and rise to new levels. She did not believe in special treatment. Students would complain about how hard she was, but would return later in life and thank her for what she taught them."
As a leader in social work, Phillips believed in quality and professionalism in the field, and that anyone could achieve success if given the chance. Her commitment to excellence in education led her to cofound the Whitney M. Young Jr. Scholars Program, an annual event designed to recognize outstanding social work students and bring in national speakers.
"Once in a meeting," states Matthews, "A gentleman was discussing how heads of the social work department were gatekeepers of the profession and how it's important to keep people out who are not qualified. Phillips stated that it is true that we should be gatekeepers, but we also need to be bridge-builders—give people that are marginal a chance to improve themselves."
Phillips was also passionate about race relations and community service. She was a member of the Salt & Pepper group, which brought African Americans and Caucasians together to discuss race issues, and was a volunteer leader in various community organizations including the YWCA of Kalamazoo and the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She received numerous service awards including the STAR Awards' Irving S. Gilmore Lifetime Achievement Award; the YWCA's Genevieve U. Gilmore Volunteer Leadership Award and the NAACP Humanitarian Award among others.
The Delores Jordan Phillips Scholarship was established in 1997 by former WMU President Diether H. Haenicke to honor her 24 years of service to the College of Health and Human Services, the University and the Kalamazoo community. To carry on the legacy of her work, her husband Dr. Romeo E. Phillips continues to raise money for the endowment.