Holmes mourns death of Dr. Donald E. Phillips

Dr. Donald E. PhillipsThe Holmes Community College family is saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Holmes Foundation President Dr. Donald E. Phillips. Dr. Phillips, 84, an alumnus, former athlete and coach, died on Feb. 2 at his home in Brandon.

The Gore Springs native certainly marked his place in the history of Holmes. Dr. Phillips was a member of the Holmes Sports Hall of Fame, a recipient of both the Alumnus of the Year Award and Distinguished Service Award, and a building named in his honor at Holmes.

The courtyard at the Chapel on the Hill also bears his name along with his wife's, the former Sue Breedlove Phillips. He and Sue played a pivotal role in the renovation of the Holmes House, the school's alumni house, on the Goodman Campus. He served the Foundation well by helping grow the college's endowment through two major gift campaigns along with the raising of funds for the Chapel on the Hill. In 2004, Dr. Phillips received the Region IV Benefactor of the Year Award from the National Council for Resource Development. The Benefactor Awards Program seeks to recognize outstanding contributions to community colleges by individuals, foundations or business and corporations. Recipients embody the ideals of philanthropy, leadership and volunteerism in the service of community, technical and junior colleges.

While at Holmes, Dr. Phillips was a member of the state championship baseball and basketball teams in 1951 and 1952. He was also chosen Mr. Holmes Junior College his sophomore year. After graduating from Holmes in 1952, he transferred to Mississippi College, where he received a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1954. He was the vice-president of the senior class and a member of the basketball team in 1952 and 1953. He received an MBA from the University of Mississippi in 1959 and also holds an honorary Doctor of Law from Mississippi College.

After a time of coaching at Benton High School and at Holmes Community College, Dr. Phillips pursued a career in the business world retiring in 1988 as President and CEO of Pitman-Moore Animal Health Care Products, Northbrook, Illinois.

After retirement, he served as chairman of the board for Synbiotics, Inc., San Diego, California and for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, Canada and various other business, college, and community service boards.

"Dr. Phillips was a once in a generation kind of man," Holmes President Dr. Jim Haffey said. "Many of us are fortunate to have benefited from his work while as students and then have the opportunity to work alongside him as a friend and mentor.

"He helped build the Holmes Foundation from the ground up," he said. "His impact on Holmes Community College and other surrounding colleges is immeasurable. He was a true servant leader, and we will miss his kind, positive, and generous spirit greatly."

"Dr. Phillips helped me grow personally and professionally from the example he set in his years of dedicated leadership to the Holmes Community College Development Foundation," Holmes Foundation Executive Director Dr. Lindy McCain said. "He touched countless lives of students, faculty, and staff over the years with the time and resources he so graciously provided. We will miss his encouragement, drive and vision at the College."

Dr. Phillips is survived by his wife, Sue, daughter, Donna Keeling (Mike) of Brandon, four grandchildren: Don Keeling (Lisa) of Madison, Amanda Keeling Minshew (Rylan) of Brandon, Phillip Barnett of Atlanta, GA, Kelly Barnett of Chicago, Illinois, and three great-grandchildren: Owen and Lillian Keeling and Olivia Minshew. He is preceded in death by his daughter, Debra Barnett of Wilmette, Illinois.

Visitation is 5:00-7:00 p.m., Monday, February 6, 2017, at First Baptist Church of Jackson, with a visitation one hour before the service on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church of Jackson, where he was a member and Deacon.