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Pepperdine University Mourns the Passing of Seaver College Professor Emeritus William B. Phillips

Pepperdine University is saddened to announce the passing of Seaver College Professor Emeritus and former dean of International Programs William B. Phillips, who died at home Friday, September 1, 2023, at the age of 88. 

After graduating with a PhD in Physics from Florida State University, Phillips embarked upon a 44-year career within higher education. Prior to joining the Seaver College faculty, he served as an associate professor of physics at the University of West Florida and held administrative positions with the Florida and Arizona Board of Regents. In 1982, Phillips began his career at Pepperdine, where he positively impacted student learning as both an administrator and professor. 

“Dr. Phillips was a committed teacher, mentor and administrator,” says Lee Kats, interim dean of Seaver College. “He had a vision and passion for connecting our students to international experiences and knew very well how those experiences would strengthen the lives of Pepperdine students for purpose, service, and leadership.”

Beyond his work as an educator, Phillips was instrumental in advancing Seaver College’s global presence. When he was named inaugural dean of International Programs in 1987, Pepperdine University possessed one international campus in Heidelberg, Germany. During his 18-year tenure in this role, Phillips expanded the burgeoning academic experience to include study abroad opportunities in London, Florence, Scotland, Spain, Russia, Japan, France, and Argentina. More than that, Phillips integrated International Programs into Seaver College’s academic curriculum and involved at least 50 percent of the student body in different international studies, which drove the program’s significant growth. With Phillips overseeing the administrative duties, Seaver College came to own one of the three largest international programs in the United states in terms of percentage of students enrolled. This accomplishment provided undergraduates with the unique chance to learn in diverse environments.

“Dr. William Phillips was a respected and admired colleague who contributed richly to Pepperdine and its students during his career,” says Michael Feltner, dean of academic initiatives at Pepperdine University and Phillips’ former divisional colleague. “The founding dean for International Programs, Bill's legacy at Pepperdine is the thousands of student lives that were transformed and enriched by the programs he developed and nurtured. Both wise and humble, Bill was quick to provide encouragement and support to me early in my development as an academic administrator. I am richer for having had Bill as a colleague and friend, and Pepperdine was blessed from his presence in leadership and as a member of the Seaver College faculty.”

Phillips was a committed professor during his time at Seaver College. A faculty member of the Natural Science Division, his courses covered physics, astronomy, and religion. Beyond his student-facing roles, Phillips acted as the academic vice president of the University, serving as a liaison to regional accreditation agencies. Over the course of his career, he published 25 scholarly articles on the topic of physics. Additionally, he successfully published one textbook titled Physics for Society.

Phillips is survived by his wife, Linda Phillips.