A woman’s legacy to the president’s of Oklahoma Christian University live on as many pay tribute.
Born in Monette, Arkansas on April 8, 1930, Lou Phillips was 82 when she passed away on January 6.
Phillips joined the university in 1975 and stayed on full time until around 2000. After that, she moved to the part-time position she held as an executive assistant.
“From the time Lou’s husband died, she was basically married to the university,” Bailey McBride, a personal friend of Phillips, said. “She was very loyal to Oklahoma Christian; it was her primary interest.”
While Phillips was working at Oklahoma Christian, she befriended Oklahoma Christian president John deSteiguer.
“I am proud to be one of ‘Lou’s boys,’” deSteiguer said. “Lou was my date a lot of times. Whenever there was an event that my wife couldn’t go to, Lou would accompany me, and she would point out who was who and what kind of relationships Oklahoma Christian had with them. It was really helpful in understanding who played an important role in the University’s past.”
According to McBride, the people Phillips made friends with reciprocated the kindness to Oklahoma Christian as alumni.
“The boys that she befriended over the years really reciprocated that kindness later on,” McBride said. “One of her boys, Al Branch, went to her when she got sick a few years ago, and others have acted as caretakers and that sort of thing.”
Phillips also knew many of the opinion leaders of the community, which has been helpful to the new president.
“She was never aloof from the campus, but she kept a very strong connection with the outside community,” McBride said. “She was like an ambassador to the business professionals.”
According to deSteiguer, Phillips’ knowledge of the history of Oklahoma Christian gave her an advantage.
“Lou knew the insides of a lot of the events, and she also understood the relationships that Oklahoma Christian and its people have with the rest of the community,” deSteiguer said. “I learned really quickly that she was a very important resource for me.”
When Terry Johnson stepped down as president, his successor kept Phillips on as assistant: she was the woman who knew everyone. Later presidents kept up that tradition, and she became one of the biggest mentors to Oklahoma Christian’s presidents.
“I say that Lou trained more presidents then anyone else in OC’s history,” deSteiguer said. “She trained five of them, including me. We are creating, with input and suggestions from the family, a memorial endowment. It’ll be a permanent fund, and the family will decide where exactly it goes.”
According to McBride, Lou was working in medical records when she moved to Edmond in 1973. Deciding it was time for a change, she started interviewing around campus. She was offered a job with Bob Smith, who was responsible for admissions and academic records, but turned it down.
She was then offered a job with Stafford North, then academic dean, but she turned that position down as well. Her third interview was with Terry Johnson, which she finally accepted.
“I asked her once in church why she took that job after turning down all those others,” McBride said. “And she told me that ‘He knows where he’s going, and I want to go with him.’”
Phillips was a people person, and was a friend to everyone she met.
“Lou had a really great memory for people, always made a great impression, and she remembered every person she ever met,” McBride said. “[She] had this ability to meet anybody and immediately relate to them.”
Phillips will be remembered as a dear friend to Oklahoma Christian, and one of the key players for the university’s public relations.
“She was a very fine woman, and I’ll miss her,” McBride said. “I woke up on Sunday and thought, ‘I’ll never see Lou Phillips again,’ and that’s a sad thought. But she will be remembered as a friend to students and a wonderful person.”