St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf to award honorary degree to educator, civil rights advocate

St. Olaf will award an honorary degree to Percival Bertrand “Bert” Phillips.

St. Olaf College will award an honorary degree to Percival Bertrand “Bert” Phillips, an educator, humanitarian, and civil rights advocate, on May 5.

The honorary degree convocation, part of the college’s Honors Day celebration, will be streamed and archived online. Phillips will give an address at the ceremony titled “Let’s Widen the Circle and Brighten the Corner.”

Phillips began his relationship with St. Olaf more than 50 years ago. In 1965, he accepted the college’s invitation to speak in Boe Memorial Chapel.

Phillips was then the dean of students and a professor of education and psychology at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University). He invited St. Olaf students to join the Tuskegee Institute Summer Education Program (TISEP), which was supported by the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity and the Federal Student Work-Study Program.

TISEP created summer school enrichment opportunities for thousands of school-age and adult learners. More than 900 college students participated in the summer experience, including 67 from St. Olaf.

After leaving Tuskegee in 1968, Phillips, with his wife and lifetime partner Judith V. Phillips, founded Curber Associates, Inc., a Washington, D.C.–based community entrepreneurial, business development, and educational training organization. In 1976 the Phillips’ started a global management consulting firm, Bermultinational Limited. It is presently under the leadership of their son Stirling Phillips, and Bert continues to serve as lead consultant.

Clients of the two firms have included the Smithsonian Institution, National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Navy, the National Park Service, the Federal Reserve Board, Exxon, Cummins Engines, McGraw Hill, and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.

Bert and Judith Phillips are the co-founders of the Africa United States Partnership Fund (AUSPF). AUSPF partners with African groups and communities in entrepreneurial poverty reduction projects and sustainable community development through direct grants and “hands on” technical assistance.

In addition to his consulting and humanitarian work in Africa and his role as dean of student affairs at Tuskegee Institute, Bert Phillips has served in numerous educational roles at the Luther Burbank Secondary School, Hunter College, American University, and the Connecticut State Universities. He also served as special assistant to the chancellor at the University of Maryland, and as executive vice president and acting president of the United States Committee for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.

Phillips holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from San Francisco State University. He earned an Ed.D. in higher education administration in the Department of Social, Organizational, and Counseling Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University.