On Oct. 7, 2019, the Institute and VMI Foundation paid tribute to the chairman of the Jackson-Hope Fund, George G. Phillips Jr. ’60. In April 2020, Phillips will be succeeded by Thomas E. Gottwald ’83 but will retain the position of chairman emeritus.
Phillips is considered the driving force behind the establishment of the Jackson-Hope Fund, which is dedicated to fostering excellence within VMI’s academic program, and has been its chairman since it was established in 2001. The fund accomplishes its goal through what Phillips describes as “applied philanthropy” – that is, providing money to those programs that will have an outsized effect.
Since the fund’s establishment in 2001, more than $50 million has been contributed to it, which has enabled the fund to distribute more than $18 million in grants. Money from the Jackson-Hope Fund has been used to support such things as education programs at the Center for Leadership and Ethics, undergraduate research and faculty positions in many departments across the full spectrum of VMI’s curriculum.
The tribute to Phillips took place at the board dinner, which customarily precedes the fund’s board meetings. It included the presentation of a resolution from the Board of Visitors, the Institute’s Meritorious Service Award and a framed photograph depicting the Institute, as well as remarks by Brig. Gen. Charles F. Brower IV, former deputy superintendent for academics and dean of the faculty.
The board’s resolution described Phillips as the “fund’s principal architect” and praised his leadership of it as “critical toward the development of new academic initiatives, cultivating those initiatives into flagship programs, and importantly growing a robust qualified faculty.” It also mentioned the fund’s important contributions to VMI’s academic progress over almost two decades. “Without the support of this fund … many of the academic programs benefiting the current Corps of Cadets and our faculty would simply not be possible.”
In his remarks, Brower, who was the dean of the faculty when the Jackson-Hope Fund was established, reminisced about the fund’s early days when Institute’s leadership and the alumni who would make up the Jackson-Hope Fund’s first board shared a desire to help VMI “take its place where it belonged: In the front rank of the best undergraduate colleges in the nation.”
He also described one of the most important contributions of the fund: The expansion and development of VMI’s faculty. He explained how the money from the fund allowed VMI to hire 14 new faculty members in the latter part of the last decade when other schools were slashing positions in response to the economic downtown. The men and women who filled these positions brought expertise in different fields that allowed them to offer courses that expanded the Institute’s course offerings but also helped VMI maintain its historically low cadet-professor ratio.
To their credit, said Brower, the board members enthusiastically embraced the Institute’s proposal that the fund also support faculty development, those activities, such as sabbaticals and research that help ensure “our professors are best prepared and inspired to assume their roles as teachers and mentors fostering the intellectual development of our cadets.”
He also praised the fund’s board for providing the money to establish and sustain the Undergraduate Research Initiative, now the VMI Center for Undergraduate Research. This program, according to Brower, pairs “bright, intellectually curious cadets and talented and accessible faculty in serious and open-ended research, the fruits of which they had the courage and confidence to share with the broader academic community.” It is an indication of the fund’s close and lasting relationship with the VCUR that whenever its board meets on post, the agenda always includes presentations by cadets and faculty of their research projects.
Brower described the Jackson-Hope Fund as “a game changer,” because it acted as a catalyst to so much of the progress that the Institute’s academic enterprise has enjoyed since 2001, citing the leadership provided by Phillips and his colleagues on the Jackson-Hope Board. “For nearly two decades,” he said, “their vision, generosity and wise counsel have partnered with VMI’s dean and faculty to design and execute academic programs and experiences of excellence for VMI as it prepares, develops and inspires our graduates for the 21st century world.”
He closed with his thanks for “the privilege of traveling together with you on the Institute’s journey to excellence … and the opportunity to help honor the extraordinary accomplishments of our friend and inspiration, George Phillips.”
Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects
The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.