Claude S. Phillips Jr. obituary

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of Claude S. Phillips Jr.


Claude S. Phillips Jr., Western Michigan University professor emeritus of political science and co-founder of what is now the Haenicke Institute for Global Education, died April 17. He was 91.

Phillips joined the WMU faculty in 1957 and retired in 1988 after 31 years of service to the University. He contributed greatly to WMU's growth and stature by playing a leading role in the design and development of international education programs.

Those programs, which included a master's and specialist degree in international studies, earned the University a national reputation as a major seat of international and area studies. Largely as a result of Phillips' efforts in curricular and other areas, WMU received the 1966 Institute of International Education-Reader's Digest Foundation award for excellence in international education.

Phillips was recognized for outstanding achievement in 1985 by the Michigan Association of Governing Boards and received the University's Distinguished Service Award in 1984.

Claude S. Phillips Jr.

With his strong record of dedication to WMU, Phillips earned high praise when presented with the Distinguished Service Award during April 1984 commencement exercises.

"Dr. Phillips came here some 27 years ago. Over this long period of service, he has made notable contributions, both in volume and in importance," the person introducing him said. "In fact, there is hardly an aspect of University life that has not been felt by Dr. Phillips' influence, be it research, academic standards, collegiality or institutional growth."

Phillips brought leading scholars to campus, established an area studies library of more than 3,500 specialized volumes, helped area high school teachers to enhance cultural studies in the community, and headed WMU's Master of Development Administration degree program, which he helped create in 1980.

In addition, Phillips helped to develop new programs in African studies and the non-Western world, and was the principal force behind WMU instituting a graduation requirement in the early 1960s that all students complete a course on the non-Western world as part of their general education courses. That requirement, unique at the time for an institution of WMU's size, not only ensured that students were exposed to third-world perspectives, but also brought the University national recognition.

Phillips was active in the Faculty Senate for 16 years, serving as vice president from 1981 to 1983. He invested considerable time serving on campus councils and committees, often as the chair or in other leadership posts, and was regularly appointed by WMU's president and provost to the most important committees concerned with institutional evaluation, planning and growth.

All during his tenure, Phillips continued to conduct research and compile a significant publication record. He was a Fulbright Scholar in India in 1961, directed a Peace Corps training program for Nigeria in 1965, and visited Nigeria several times to conduct research as well as serve as a visiting professor.

His research abroad resulted in two original books on Nigeria and Africa, along with numerous book chapters and journal articles on developing areas. He also wrote some fiction novels. One, "The Shot from the Mountain: An Appalachian Odyssey," is an award-winning historical novel published in 2004 that covers the tribulations and quests of an Appalachian miner struggling to improve his life and the life of his family.

Phillips, who was raised in the coal mining region of West Virginia, earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Tennessee in 1947 and 1950, respectively, and a doctoral degree from Duke University in 1954.


In 2012, the Claude and Nancy Phillips Dissertation Research Fund was created at WMU to support dissertation research by a doctoral student in political science. The first award from the fund will be made in 2015.

A private family service has been held. Visit to make a memorial guestbook entry.