Edith B. Phillips died peacefully at her residence in Southfield, Mich. on Feb. 25, after completing her morning ritual of reading the New York Times. She was 86-years-old and her health had been declining.
Ms. Phillips retired from the Wayne State University Library and Information Science Program where she taught for 23 years. She was honored for her scholarly achievements and service to the university with the distinction of Professor Emeritus. During her illustrious career she taught various courses in cataloging and technical services to more than 3,500 students, offered multiple lectures and addresses, published, served as a consultant to libraries, and was awarded grants to pursue her research interests. At her retirement, Edith was remembered not only as a faculty member but as an advocate of faculty rights, an author and educator with high ethical values. She remained a lifelong mentor to students and library professionals.
Professor Phillips’ career began in 1949 when she received her Master of Arts in Library Science from the University of Michigan. She worked in academic, public, and special libraries in Michigan and Illinois, including serving as head of the Cataloging Department for the State Library of Michigan. She was a member of the American and Michigan Library Associations.
Professor Phillips served for many years on the Southfield Library Board and was instrumental in the planning, design and construction of the new Southfield Library building.
She was an active 50-year member of the League of Women Voters, serving as president and on several League boards. She researched and assisted in the development of the League’s international positions. Professor Phillips was a longtime member of the ACLU and the Jane Austen Society.
After her retirement, she continued her active life, volunteering at the Detroit Institute of Arts and reading newspapers for the visually impaired over the radio. She continued to enjoy and support the many cultural institutions in the city, including the Detroit Repertory and Hilberry theatres, and was able to spend summers at her beloved cottage on Lake Michigan. She was an avid reader and always enjoyed challenging crossword puzzles.
Professor Phillips was born and raised on a farm in Shelby, Michigan. She had five siblings. She was always proud that her parents, Jessie and Boyd had a strong belief in the value of educating women. Her mother, Jessie, was a kindergarten teacher.
After World War II, Professor Phillips married Clarence Phillips. They had two children, Jonathan Kirk and Sara Grace. Sadly, Clarence and the children died from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) within five years of each other. At this very bleak period in her life, her courage was sustained by the love and kindness of her many friends, colleagues, and family.
The family deeply appreciates the special love and compassion Professor Phillips received from her very dear friend Karen Ethridge, who in recent years helped her to balance her strong desire to remain independent with her increasing health care needs.
She is survived by her loving and devoted sister Jeanette Crowl of Grand Rapids, her nieces Andrea Zegoski, Patricia Crowl and Laura Mitchell, and nephews Mark Crowl and James Grossen. She also enjoyed the company of her seven grandnieces and nephews, and great grandnieces and nephews.
A memorial celebration of Professor Phillips’ life will be held on Saturday, March 15 at 10 a.m., at the Northwest Unitarian Universalist Church, 23925 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield Mich. 48075. All are welcome. Memorial contributions may be sent to: Edith B. Phillips Endowed Scholarship, Wayne State University, Library and Information Science Program, 106 Kresge Library, Detroit, MI 48202.