Daniel P. Phillips, the longest serving Evanston school board member, passed away on October 24, 2011 at the age of 94. Phillips was elected to the Evanston Township High School District 202 Board in April 1964, and later served as the first African American board president. During his 25 years of board service, he served as ETHS District 202 board president for seven years (1969-74 and 1986-88) and as vice president for eight years.
On June 11, 1989 the ETHS Board of Education held a community-wide celebration called “Dan Day” to honor Phillips’ 25th anniversary on the school board. At that time, Phillips was interviewed for an article in a local School News publication. (Direct link: http://www.eths.k12.il.us/assets/1/Documents/DPhillips_1989news.pdf). Phillips conveyed that his involvement in local school politics began when his eldest daughter was preparing to enter Kindergarten at Foster School when Evanston’s elementary schools were racially segregated. Phillips said that he met with Oscar Chute, then Superintendent of District 65, because he was angered by the substandard education offered at Foster.
“Oscar Chute and I spent a half day in his office. He sort of challenged me. He said if you promise to get involved with the school and talk to your other friends about getting involved, I’ll start working on these things right away. So, I did and he did.”
From there, Phillips became the District 65 Caucus Committee member from Foster School, and subsequently began his service on the District 202 Board. During his time on the D202 Board, ETHS established its reputation as one of the nation’s top schools. “We were innovative. We tried things differently, but at the same time, we maintained the quality of education that we’re known for.”
In 1970 Phillips helped found an educational lobbying organization, ED-RED, representing public school districts in northern Illinois. His expertise in school matters prompted the Illinois Association of School Boards to tap him for its governing board and as a representative to its Federal Relations Network in Washington, DC. In 1988 the state education office named Phillips as the only school board member to its Special Education Task Force.
Phillips said that his biggest contribution to the ETHS board was “[my] ability to talk to and relate to and communicate with a big variety of society, at all economic levels, all racial levels, and the fact that I can keep a dialogue with them.” Phillips explained, “It’s nothing that I bought or trained for or anything, it’s just probably natural, part of the way I was raised.”
Dan Phillips was an Evanston resident for nearly 70 years. In addition to hosting “Dan Day,” ETHS also renamed its annual indoor track meet as the “Dan Phillips Invitational Relays” in his honor. Additional highlights of Dan Phillips’ life are featured in a November 4th Evanston Review article. (http://evanston.suntimes.com/news/8596459-418/service-set-for-dan-phillips-trailblazing-district-202-president.html).
A memorial service will be held for Dan Phillips on Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. in Evanston:
First United Methodist Church
516 Church Street (corner of Church and Hinman)
Evanston, Illinois 60201
In lieu of flowers, the family would like memorial contributions to be sent to the ETHS Educational Foundation and Y.O.U.:
ETHS Educational Foundation
1600 Dodge Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201
1027 Sherman Ave.
Evanston, IL 60202