Phil Collyer – in memory
- Years at WGBH: 1959-2008
From Jon Abbott — 1/28/2008
It is with tremendous sadness that I share with the WGBH family the news that our longtime friend Phil Collyer died yesterday of complications from leukemia. He was 68.
Phil’s career at WGBH stretches back nearly 50 years from his most recent role as the indomitable executive producer of the WGBH Auction and the Rare and Fine Wine Auction. Two among his many career highlights: working on our Oscar-winning profile of poet Robert Frost and helping to pioneer the development of captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing audiences.
All of us who knew him will remember Phil as an innovative and dedicated professional who was committed to our collective mission. “Phil personified the best of public broadcasting,” says Vice Chair Henry Becton. “He believed passionately in using media to make education and culture available to everyone. He was a great organizer of large production teams and motivated them with his humor and calm command under pressure. It’s hard to imagine ’GBH without him.”
Edye Baker (right), who worked with Phil for 20 years in her role as WGBH Auction manager — and who was in close contact with the family during these final sad days — describes her longtime friend as intensely loyal to WGBH. “Phil welcomed the community to enter the world of live TV in support of ’GBH,” says Edye. “He had an uncommon ability to treat volunteers with such deep respect that their commitment to WGBH grew with each encounter with him.”
A Brockton resident and US Army veteran, Phil was raised in South Dennis and graduated from Yarmouth High School. In 1959, as a junior at Boston University, he began volunteering at ’GBH — four years after our first TV broadcast and eight years after our radio debut. During summer breaks, he worked in the ’GBH mailroom. As a graduate student in WGBH’s BU Scholar Program, he had an opportunity to run master control and assist with studio productions. Soon he was given the opportunity to direct a number of TV programs. It was while directing an art series called Images that he met his future wife, Marie, who was volunteering on the production crew.
In 1962, Phil became a full-time WGBH crew member, serving on the staffs of such early productions as Prospects of Mankind with Eleanor Roosevelt and College Sport of the Week, one of the first college sports television broadcasts. From physics to folk music, chemistry to college basketball, he produced and directed a diverse array of early TV shows for WGBH. In 1967, he directed America’s participation in Our World, the first-ever live, around-the-world telecast that famously featured The Beatles singing “All You Need Is Love.” For that historic telecast, Phil led a ’GBH production crew to New Jersey, where they broadcast live from the scene of the Glassboro Summit between President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin.
It was perhaps Phil’s time as the first director of The Caption Center at WGBH that would have the greatest impact on audiences across America and around the world. In that role, he spearheaded the effort to caption WGBH’s The French Chef with Julia Child, the first TV program ever captioned for deaf viewers. He also pioneered the captioning of news programs with President Richard Nixon’s second inaugural address in 1973, and went on to create our captioned version of ABC Evening News. The broadcast aired without commercials on PBS stations just five hours after the original ABC broadcast, at a time when same-day captioning was unheard of.
“Captioning all began with Phil,” says Media Access director Larry Goldberg. “It’s hard to imagine accomplishing all that he did with what we today would consider very primitive technology. But Phil’s ingenuity, persistence, and innovations live on and are enhancing the lives of millions upon millions of deaf and hard-of-hearing people the world over.”
Phil enjoyed sharing his talent and expertise with other PBS stations, helping them start or improve their own development efforts and their auction. He also volunteered to organize and produce cable and radio auctions, wine tastings, and other events on behalf of such non-profits as the Talking Information Center and the Easton Lions Club.
Phil reveled in time spent with his family, and he relished his annual trips to Jamaica and the Caribbean with Marie, with whom he spent 44 happy years. He loved the Red Sox and was a Brockton Rox season ticket holder. He spent many years as a Little League umpire and was a certified US Tennis Association official for many professional tennis events, including the US Open. He most enjoyed overseeing and officiating the national father/son and father/daughter tennis tournaments as well as many senior events at the Longwood Cricket Club.
Our deepest condolences go to Phil’s beloved family, who had an opportunity to gather at his bedside during his final days and usher him peacefully toward the end, including Marie; son Philip; daughters Kathie Cornelius, Laurie Keating, and Wendy Potts; and nine grandchildren. If you’d like to send them your thoughts: Marie Collyer and Family, 224 Linwood Street, Brockton, MA 02301.
We do not yet have final details about funeral arrangements; QuickNooz will keep you informed. In the ’GBH tradition, Phil’s friends, co-workers, and former colleagues will remember him here in a Quaker-style gathering, which we’ll schedule at a later date convenient for family members to join us. QuickNooz also will let you know when that will take place.
In the meantime, Phil’s legions of friends and fans may share their thoughts below. And for those who may wish to remember Phil with a donation, the family has asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org). Blood or platelet donations also may be made through the American Red Cross or Brigham & Women’s Hospital Blood Donor Services.
In an interview for a series of WGBH oral histories, Phil recounted writing a high school paper on the relatively new concept of educational television. “I recall writing at the end of my paper that ‘Someday I hope to work for WGBH,’” he said. “I was fortunate enough to have that come true.” Phil’s good fortune was surely all of ours. We will miss him.
From the Boston Herald — 2/1/2008
Philip W. Collyer of Brockton, a television director and pioneer of captioning for the deaf, died Sunday at South East Rehab & Skilled Care Center in Easton after a lengthy illness. He was 68.
Mr. Collyer was raised in South Dennis and had lived in Brockton for more than 40 years.
He graduated from Yarmouth High School and Boston University.
Mr. Collyer began volunteering at WGBH as a college junior in 1959 and worked in the station’s mailroom during his summer breaks. He returned as a graduate student, running the station’s master control room and assisting with studio productions and was soon given directing opportunities. He began working full-time in 1962, serving on production staffs for shows such as “Prospects of Mankind” with Eleanor Roosevelt and “College Sport of the Week.”
Mr. Collyer in 1962 directed America’s participation in “Our World,” the first-ever live, world-wide telecast that famously featured the Beatles singing “All You Need is Love.”
He served as the first director of the Caption Center at WGBH and spearheaded the effort to caption Julia Child’s “The French Chef,” the first show to feature captions for the deaf and hard of hearing. He was also responsible for the captioning of President Nixon’s second inaugural address in 1973 and went on to create the “Captioned ABC Evening News,” which aired on PBS stations five hours after the original ABC broadcast.
Mr. Collyer consulted for several PBS stations around the country to help improve their development programs.
He often volunteered to organize and produce events, such as cable and radio auctions, on behalf of many local nonprofits including the Talking Information Center and the Easton Lions Club. He was a Little League umpire for many years.
He was a certified U.S. Tennis Association official for many professional tennis events including the U.S. Open. He most enjoyed overseeing and officiating national father/son and father/daughter tennis tournaments and senior events at Longwood Cricket Club.
He reveled in time spent with his children and grandchildren and enjoyed annual trips to Jamaica and the Caribbean with his wife. An avid baseball fan, he loved the Boston Red Sox [team stats] and was a season-ticket holder for the Brockton Rox.
Mr. Collyer is survived by his wife of 44 years, Marie (Amshy); a son, Philip of Norton; three daughters, Kathie Cornelius of East Taunton, Laurie Keating of Plymouth and Wendy Potts of Norton; a sister, Diane Stephens of Fitchburg; a brother, David of Florida; eight grandsons, a granddaughter and several nieces and nephews.
From the Boston Globe — 2/10/2008
Philip Collyer, WGBH director, closed captioning innovator
After helping Robert Frost carry his belongings from WGBH’s headquarters, the popular poet gave Philip W. Collyer, then a production assistant, a tip.
“Frost handed him a $5 bill, and he turned it back to Frost and said, ‘Thank you very much Mr. Frost, but WGBH paid me already,’ “said Henry Becton Jr., vice chairman of WGBH’s board of trustees.
Mr. Collyer went on to become a director and producer for WGBH in a career that spanned a half-century.
The South Dennis native, who helped pioneer closed captioning for television programming and ran the station’s annual auction, died Jan. 27 at Southeast Rehabilitation & Skilled Care Center in Easton from complications of leukemia. He was 68 and was a longtime Brockton resident.
Mr. Collyer “believed passionately in the mission of public media and about making education and culture available to everyone through public broadcasting,” Becton said.
Julia Child’s program “The French Chief” was the first US television program to include captioning for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers. Mr. Collyer had pulled funds together to develop captioning, fusing together the technology of running subtitles and courtroom stenography to create the text appearing on the screen.
“In 1972, he was handed this captioning project, and he completely took it on as something that had never been done before,” said Larry Goldberg, director of media access at WGBH. “It’s beyond innovation — it’s creating something out of whole cloth with no guidelines.”
As the first director of The Caption Center at WGBH, Mr. Collyer created the Captioned ABC Evening News, which was broadcast on WGBH five hours after it ran on ABC. That fast turnaround — all in the span of a few hours – was unheard of at the time, colleagues said.
When President Nixon’s second inaugural speech was to be aired in 1973, Mr. Collyer fought hard to get it on air with captions on WGBH. The station had not bought the rights to air it, but he was able to work his connections to get a Spanish-language feed, and it ran with English-language captions.
In the hallways of WGBH, he was also known as the embodiment of the annual live auction, launched in 1966, to raise money for the station.
“He was a great organizer of large production teams; he was the maestro of the Channel 2 auction,” Becton said.
Throughout the process, “He was able to create these masterful strategies where everyone felt they could participate,” said Edye Baker, a longtime friend and the former auction manager.
As executive producer of the auction, as well as the Rare and Fine Wine Auction, “He never lost his cool, never lost his temper,” Goldberg said. “In some of the most pressure-cooker situations, he was cool under fire.”
He was often called upon to put out fires — at least one time, literally. During one live auction, a viewer saw smoke on the set and called the Fire Department, which came charging onto the scene. It turned out to be a smoldering curtain, but Mr. Collyer created the “firehouse quickie” segment of the live auction to commemorate the excitement that ensued.
The logistics of coordinating the auction could be nightmarish, colleagues said, but he was able to bring together volunteers, give them a laugh or two, and keep them coming back each year.
“I think he inspired confidence, so people trusted him,” Becton said. “He had a common touch – he could relate to people from all backgrounds.”
And, in part because of his signature plaid shirts, “You could always find Phil on the floor of the auction when you needed to,” Baker said.
Mr. Collyer knew he wanted to go into public broadcasting from an early age. While a student at Yarmouth High School, he wrote a paper on the then-new notion of educational television. “I recall writing at the end of my paper that ‘Someday I hope to work for WGBH,’ ” he recalled in a WGBH oral history program in 1998. “I was fortunate enough to have that come true.”
As a junior at Boston University, he started volunteering at WGBH television. He worked in the station’s mail room during his summers before becoming a graduate student at WGBH’s BU Scholar Program.
He met his wife of 44 years, Marie (Amshy), while directing an art series “Images” when she was volunteering on the production crew.
He became a full-time WGBH crew member in 1962 and was on the production staff of programs such as “Prospects of Mankind with Eleanor Roosevelt” and “College Sport of the Week,” which station officials believe to be one of the first television broadcasts of college sports.
When the Beatles sang “All you Need is Love” as part of the famous “Our World” international-satellite broadcast, Mr. Collyer directed the US feed.
His ability to get people laughing at WGBH was legendary, colleagues said. He was often the one to write a poem or parody to send off an employer to a new job or thank the crew of volunteers at the annual auction.
“He was somewhat of a timeless person — he didn’t really seem to get any older,” Goldberg said.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Collyer leaves a son Philip of Norton; three daughters, Kathie Cornelius of East Taunton, Laurie Keating of Plymouth and Wendy Potts of Norton; a sister Diane Stephens of Fitchburg; a brother David of Florida; eight grandsons and a granddaughter.
I just learned of Phil’s death from this website. I am truly saddened because while I hadn’t seen him in almost 48 years I still remember him as a close friend and mentor.
When I arrived in Boston from Virginia in 1961 as a BU Scholar, Phil was the first person from WGBH I met. I was lonely with little money. I remember him sharing a peanut butter sandwich with me in his apartment. He took me to visit for a weekend with his parents on the Cape. He showed me the ropes at the studio and helped me when I messed up during the TV training.
In your lifetime, you generally remember the few who helped you along the way and don’t ever forget them. Phil is one of those I will always remember.
After almost 50 years, it is sheer luck that I accessed the GBH scholar website and read your memories of Phil. I was hoping that I could get in touch with you and the other members of our batch. As a foreign student from the other end of the world, you were the first to show me warm friendship which I remember up to these days. I am greatly saddened to learn about Phil’s passing away. Among us, he had set his mind to be a great tv broadcaster which he had achieved with WGBH.
Returning to Manila, I joined an ad agency and after a few years put up my own shop that included Nokia, Puma, Omega among multinational clients. I am now on semi-retirement and my eldest son took over the business. My wife, Brenda and I had six children two daughters are based in NY and Connecticutt whom we visit yearly. My regards to your dear wife who had been kind and hospitable the times we had those fun times in Boston.
This year marked he golden anniversary of our year at BU and WGBH and indeed happy to come across a great friend whom I will always fondly remember.
219 Mango Drive Ayala Alabang Village
Muntinlupa City Metro Manila
Phil, his siblings and parents were great friends of my family their entire lives. We were like “one” family when “Aunt Dorothy & Uncle Phil” were with us.
Phil will always remain a warm and genuine friend in my heart and soul. It is his smile and hugs and love of life that I will miss.
My husband Larry and I had opportunities to volunteer at the ‘GBH auction many times – I was always in awe at “Phil” at work.
My love for Phil will go on – my love to Marie & family.
Phil taught me everything about a PBS auction. He lilterally came to Waco for a couple of the weeks the first time, but I wasn’t involved that year.
The first year I was in charge, I called him over fifty times, sometimes late at night, for help. He never once acted as though I were imposing. He was very helpful in that calm, gentle voice.
I was always so glad to see him at Development Conference and I enjoyed all his tales about early public broadcasting at WGBH. He had a few tales of his own about Waco, which were funny. I am so sorry to learn of his death.
I was startled and saddened to learn of Phil’s passing. In my early days as an Auction volunteer, I was pleased and touched that he would remember my name and those of so many volunteers from year to year amid all the hubbub.
Once I became a table captain, I confess part of my incentive in trying to do a good job was to never become part of his training sessions on “How NOT to be a Table Captain.” When mistakes did happen (“Did you thank the donor?!?”), I knew as long as I got the information out over the air before the Auctioneer was done, then it would be okay with Phil.
I will miss him and the continuity he provided to every Auction.
In 1994, when I was hired by Edye Baker to be acquisitions manager of the WGBH Auction, I thought I was getting a job. And, although this was true, I really got a family. This large Auction family, composed of staff and volunteers, was headed by Edye and Phil.
Each year we worked hard to produce the Auction. Phil could sell anything, and he knew just how to make donations look good in order to bring in the highest bids. I can picture him now, standing in the the center of the Auction set in his plaid shirt, monitoring and directing the action. Phil worked from his hospital bed, almost to the end of his life; he was managing the wine donation calls I was making for him among other tasks.
Memories of the “good old days” of Auction and Phil will be with me forever. I was lucky to be part of the Auction and lucky to have Phil Collyer be part of my life as a mentor and friend.
As far as I know, Phil Collyer was the only person to work actively in all three of the permanent WGBH locations: the original studios at 84 Massachusetts Avenue, the 125 Western Ave site, and the new One Guest Street building.
Even though there were others who may have spent time briefly at One Guest Street, Phil was an employee at all three places. He will be greatly missed.
I was hired in 1971 by Jack Caldwell as one of the first employees of WGBY in Springfield and began working on The Reporters.
One of my first year assignments was to produce the first WGBY Auction. I spent a week for two years running learning what this “auction thing” was all about — and who better to have as a mentor than Phil.
I remember him running to the hotel window and looking over to the station hoping to see the plumes of steam rising from the building, and when on occasion that didn’t happen seeing him bound out to find out why the air conditioning wasn’t working.
No air conditioning, no auction.
He had me do every job in the auction — table captain, quickie board, specials, E board, warehouse — you name it, I did it.
I began producing and directing live events, sports, political conventions, etc. for Connecticut Public TV, Florida PTV network, Vermont ETV network, and Mountain Lake PBS in NY state. I brought Phil in whenever I could, and he and Greg Harney made me look so good we won an Emmy for Oustanding Sports Coverage for Aetna World Cup Tennis in Hartford.
But my favorite memory of Phil was our so-called “hot shot exchange” gambit. We knew exactly what it meant. I’d take on new responsibilities with a new organization, study where bad habits had evolved, and then call Phil to say, “I need a hot shot visit.”
That was short-hand for, “I need a hot-shot outsider to come in and convince my staff to shed those bad habits.” Phil would ask, “OK, what do you need me to say,” and he’d show up for a couple of days and show us how it’s done.
He was a mentor, friend, and teacher who I never once heard say a bad word about anyone, or even raise his voice — even when the air-conditioning wasn’t working.
God bless you, Phil.
I came to Boston with my husband from London and worked as a volunteer for the Auction, typing scripts for the Two Collection and then with encouragement from Phil and the rest of the Auction, I became one of the Auction staff working closely with Phil on different fundraising productions.
The fun, the immense kindness and the professionalism is what I remember. When I left to go back to England, my treasured possession was Phil’s reference — he said “Please don’t hire her! We want her back!” He always knew how to make people feel special.
Since coming back to the UK, every time I thought of Phil I would smile and I will always do that.
Phil is probably one of the few who has worked in almost every department of the station over his many years.
In the early 80’s, he was my Pledge Producer and Special Events manager for Membership.
One year during our March “Festival” pledge drive, he spruced things up by adding brightly colored helium balloons to the phone tables and around the studio.
After each pledge break, the “talent” and director would sit with Phil to strategize on the next break. This night, Phil wanted to cheer us up, so before beginning, he secretly sucked on a balloon and started to produce the break as Donald Duck. You can guess the laughter among the production group. I had never seen/heard this before and couldn’t concentrate. This gave Phil great joy and he kept doing it … right to the 3 second cue for the next break. We were live, trying to encourage folks to pledge their money to support the programs. And all I could hear was Phil’s squeaky voice in the background. Talk about losing it.
I will forever remember the joy and laughter he brought to us all that night with a simple helium balloon. That’s our Phil.
As “business manager” of The Channel 2 Auction from 1983 to 1989, I had the privilege of working with Phil. I also worked under his direction as a pledge volunteer back in the days of pie charts and toteboards.
When pledge drives began to feature guests, Phil asked me if my son, a huge “Dr. Who” fan, would like to meet not only one of the Doctor’s co-stars, but the current incarnation of the character — one on one, before the crowds showed up! Phil often provided opportunities for Morgan to participate in special events at the foundation, whether it was a ticketed event or a volunteer shift. As a single parent working long hours, this gave my son a vested interest in what kept me at work far beyond what was expected of other parents.
Phil’s ability to balance the myriad functions of the Auction amazed me. He was the first one in the still-quiet studio every morning, the last to leave after the final table was sold off. He consistantly came up with new twists on the old ideas for turning “viewers” into “bidders.” Some were more successful than others and while we all loved the Firehouse Quickie, the Coin Haul and Midnight Madness in their day, the Auction staff had to convince Phil to abandon a tic-tac-doe style bidding game. It was a very rare instance when one of his clever schemes didn’t work out as he hoped.
Phil was everywhere during Auction and Post Auction — not all his decisions were popular, but he did what was best for the production. As a Multiples Table team member I was sometimes disappointed when Phil sent over a guest auctioneer because there was a backlog in the The Cahners Room — but whether it was a local television news personality or the Red Hat Society Queen Bee, we were taught to make it his/her moment to shine.
Edye Baker said she and Phil never had a disagreement in the 20 years they managed and produced the Auction. I believe it. Phil’s humor, whether in his poetry for each occasion or his ad libbing over our carefully written script for “Phil’s Last Table,” is what remains in my mind and heart.
Marie and all the Collyers can take comfort in knowing that the “family” who loved Phil extends far beyond four walls or the town of Brockton.
How do you pay tribute to an icon? Channel 2 Auction week quickly became a family thing in our household when I was a teenager. Phil Collyer was the host that led you from tables A, B & C, passing the excitement and the frenetic energy into our homes. I remember telling my older sister at the time that I wanted to “do that” when I was old enough.
Flash forward thirty years and a chance conversation with Phil (that started with my foot in my mouth), ended with him inviting me to be a table captain at the Auction. I was certain that I couldn’t do it — he was certain that I could.
During my very first auction, I was devastated to learn my pet had a terminal illness. Phil took time out to sit down with me and was so kind. I have a hard time believing any of my other bosses ever would have done that! For all of his outstanding accomplishments, Phil was even more a man filled with compassion for those around him. That conversation proved that to me without a doubt. Even though he was an icon to me, he was a very down to earth guy with a really huge heart.
I wish I could have thanked Phil for all of the opportunities he gave to me, his constant knowledge-sharing and most of all, his friendship. I was so fortunate to have crossed his path. He had the glow and the show and the know.
God must be planning one heck of an Auction!
I met Phil at the PBS Auction Conference in New Hampshire last year. I had heard such great things about WGBH’s Auction and was excited to meet him. He was a great guy with a wealth of knowledge and I appreciated the information he shared. I am sorry to hear of his passing.
I knew Phil through attending the WGBH wine auctions as wine auctioneer over several years. He always made Jenny and I feel welcome in Boston, was kind, generous, and had a lovely sense of humour. The auctions always ran smoothly and without a hitch under his direction. He was a superb organiser and had time for everybody. We enjoyed some wonderful dinners with Phil and Marie both before and after each auction and shared his enjoyment for wine.
He was incredibly thoughtful. At one WGBH auction a couple of years ago I brought the gavel (hammer) down a bit too hard when I sold a lot and half it shattered. So Phil arranged specially for a shatter proof gavel to be made specially for me which he kindly sent over to me in the UK. I will always think of his kindness when I use it.
Jenny and I will miss him and we will always have fond memories of him.
The late 1970’s found me working for Phil at WGBH. He brought his energy and humor every day to managing the daily activities of the station including the scheduling office where I worked. I admired Phil’s tenacity, fortitude, and ability to deal with all conditions in a clear and thoughtful manner.
I am saddened to learn of Phil’s death but glad in my heart that I can honestly say I knew him as a friend. I recently came across a letter Phil wrote me in the early 1980’s and I spent some time thinking I would contact him and set up a luncheon or coffee when I came back to visit my beloved New England. (I live in Seattle.) Ironically, I began my work life as a youngster in the Auction Office with Hamilton Osgood and Muppy Upton!
I worked on the Auction for 12 years and really enjoyed the chance to work with Phil. I was responsible for the clothing that was modeled for the last 5 years of that part of the Auction.
That gave me the opportunity to work fairly close to Phil as he made things happen on air and I did my best to get the models on air. Then I got to work the Fine Wine and DIne weekend for many years and that was really special. He really knew how to put on a great show.
There are so many delightful memories during the Auctions but two of my favorite had to do with Phil’s staff and volunteer productions.
One of his best written and most enjoyable productions was performed by staff for the volunteers after the special volunteer dinner given before the Auction. We were all taken downstairs to the radio studio. Staff sang and danced several numbers and the “show” was about a radio show being performed live as it would have been in the early 1940’s. I laughed so hard and so enjoyed being entertained by a group that was obviously having a wonderful time.
The second skit, that I got to participate in, was at dinner for the staff and volunteers at Karen Levine’s home. We were saying goodbye to Susan Kaplan and hello to her replacement, Sarabeth. At the very end I said the wrong name — Susan instead of Sarabeth — and Phil politely turned me around and pointed me at Sarabeth as the new person to head the volunteers. He was always so quick to correct my mistakes. I’ll miss him.
Phil was among my interviewers for my job at WGBH. It was arguably the most comfortable interview I’ve ever had … we just sat & talked for an hour. It was like we had known each other forever.
Over the past year, he helped acclimate me to WGBH and shared so much of its rich history. I will miss seeing him every day and sharing our compassion for the volunteers of ‘GBH.
In the 23+ years that I knew Phil and worked with him at the Auction, he never seemed to change — never looked older, never was sick. Maybe because of that I thought he would always be there. I was shocked when a former go-getter of mine called me Monday night to tell me that Phil had left us.
I had a wonderful last chat with Phil when I was high bidder on an item at the end of the last PAA. Can’t believe he’s gone — I’ll miss him terribly.
My deepest sympathies to his family and friends.
Like most people, I met Phil through the WGBH Auction. I was new to WGBH and my department head encouraged all of us to volunteer with the Auction. I did everything from taking bids to running them over to the board to board marking.
I usually was on the late shift and stayed till the final sign off for the night, then stayed for the nightly trash lottery Phil ran.
Who could miss getting a twinkie (just one) for turning in trash?
After a couple of years I was asked to be a table captain and interact with the guest auctioneers or present if none were available. I was hesitant, having missed some of the training. Phil never hesitated. He just said okay because he knew that I could do it. That was when I realized I had truly become a part of the WGBH family.
Seeing Phil in the hallway or the new parking garage … he never hesitated to say hello and ask how I was.
Generations of volunteers, employees and far flung WGBHers will miss his smile, sense of humor, caring and confidence!
Phil was an absolutely wonderful man and I will miss him terribly. I had so much fun at the auction and he was a huge part of why it was fun. Thank you Phil. Sincerely, Petrina (WGBH Creative Services).
I did not know Phil, but am best friends with his sister, Diane Stephens. I saw Phil, with Diane last Friday and met his wonderful family and 2 of his co-workers.
I am fairly new to WGBH having just started with the Docent program over the summer.
During one of the evening opening events, Phil and I were scheduled in the Radio hall way, and there was very little traffic.
But it was one of my favorite events because Phil told me the history of WGBH’s various locations, his passion about WGBH showed through his story.
I am grateful for that one evening with him, I am sure he will be greatly missed.
I was at WGBH when Phil first appeared as a volunteer, and later, when he came back as a Boston University Scholar. We worked on more shows together than I can remember or count, and I was always happy to see him there as a co-worker — especially in those “hazard laden” days of “live.” Partnered with Phil in any capacity always made me feel more secure.
Phil truly earned his stripes through diligence, dedication, and a wonderful cooperativeness. He rarely, if ever, made a mistake. My experience of Phil was that of someone who loved television as a field of endeavor, and was deeply committed to WGBH. Moreover, he seemed to love doing whatever he was asked to do, and invariably did it well. He was always cheerful, very attentive to detail, took initiative, never became flustered, and was always on the lookout for an opportunity to do a favor. Phil was a “value-added” sort of guy if there ever was one.
As was unfortunately true with many of my former WGBH cohorts, I did not keep track of Phil’s career after I left the station (too busy staying abreast of my own, I guess). But from what I have read, he paved, over the years, a truly wide, illustrious and noble road.
Kind, generous, and considerate to a fault, Phil did a most touching thing at the reunion in 2000. He brought, and gave me, two of what are, in my estimation, priceless pieces of memorabilia namely: a 17-inch lens (below) which I had used on Boston Symphony broadcasts from Sanders Theater, and a 3-inch image orthicon tube which I’d also used (probably by that time as a director) at the 84 Massachusetts Avenue studios.
Phil had salvaged these items from the ruins of the 1962 fire (which destroyed those studios) and retained them over all the intervening 38 years, ultimately to gift me with them in 2000. I still have them. Now he could just as easily have kept them for himself, but I have lately come to understand from others who were at the 2000 reunion, that Phil was quite delighted to be able to surprise me with them. That gesture, and his pleasure in it, was very typically Phil.
It’s almost impossible to find enough good things to say about him, so this will have to do: Phil was a man you could hold in the highest regard, and with the deepest affection — and I did, and I do.
When I first met Phil, it was actually Phil that was meeting me, and I didn’t even realize it. As a competitive tennis player in my youth, Phil had served as a umpiring official at numerous local tournaments. His wife, Marie, also an umpiring official, had overseen competitive matches that I had played in college. But the association was only at an arm’s length — officials don’t interact with players in order to maintain their neutrality.
I only truly met Phil at a function for the regional tennis governing organization years later, where he went out of his way to compliment me on my consistent sportsmanship in my junior competitive years (normally the only impressions that officials get are bad ones, so it was a surprise that my conduct stood out). After hearing that I had an interest in working at WGBH, having already completed a production internship with NOVA, Phil offered me the chance to intern at the WGBH Auction.
That spring, I was given an all-access pass to the inner workings of Auction. Phil’s generosity and trust in letting a “green” college student write scripts for high ticket auction items was astounding. He took me under his wing and “showed me the ropes”, introducing me to the crew and the staff, and familiarizing me with the process that is uniquely, and endearingly, Auction. I immediately felt like a part of “the family.”
I never forgot those experiences – after graduation I immediately started working in the WGBH National Promotion department, and have been here ever since. And every May, without fail, I have volunteered for the WGBH Auction in any way that I can — from script-writing to presenting — anything that’s needed, I’m more than happy to lend a hand.
Meeting Phil changed my life — he helped show me the heart of this foundation, and fuel my own commitment to public television. His warmth, giving nature, and passion has in turn inspired me to share that same commitment to the foundation, public television, and the mission with others. He was a teacher, a mentor, and most importantly, a friend.
And he will be dearly missed.
I had the honor and pleasure of working with Phil on Auction for the past two years. I cannot begin to tell you all that I have learned from him, not just about Auction, but also about WGBH.
Through an unselfish willingness to share knowledge, experiences, thoughts, and stories (and there were plenty!), he had an amazing way of connecting and working with people. I will miss that unique feeling of connectivity he always brought to the Auction.
But most of all, I will miss his guidance, his laughter and friendship.
As part of the 1962 WGBH/BU Scholars we all met Phil who took us through the drill of learning the ingredients making TV programs. He was a great teacher.
Patient and kind as we all took turns (with mixed results) running cameras, stage managing, and directing simple studio shoots.
Thanks, Phil, for the gentle landing into what we all knew would be a wonderful career … if only we could be like you.
Phil and my husband, David Ives, were friends as they both loved WGBH and the Auction! They had such fun together over 40 years when David hosted the Auction.
Phil gave me many of the Auction tapes after David died and I will treasure them. He also helped me to do the “New England Getaways” Show for the Auction. I have given David’s “Bid-Bid-Bid” apron to be displayed in the new building in honor of all those years!
As a young college graduate, I had the pleasure of working on the Auction for three years with Phil as producer. He immediately made me feel like an important part of the auction family, although I was definitely the “newbie.”
I remember when I left ‘GBH to go to WYES in New Orleans as Auction Manager, Phil wrote a song for my going away party to the tune of Bye, Bye, Blackbird.
He was a great role model and friend to this impressionable then 22 year old, and the memory of his friendship has not faded over the last 25 years. He will be missed.
A gentle man. If it weren’t for Phil, I would not have been at WGBH nor met all the wonderful people surrounding my long tenure there.
Phil hired me, say in 1972, as one of the original “7” who started the Caption News for the Deaf. I was a young teacher of the deaf and saw that bringing news to the deaf and hard-of-hearing was important. Thus, I was recruited as a Language Specialist to work with developing captioning and with deaf people across the country.
He made my years under his tutelage one of learning and fun. Whoever touched Phil is certainly touched still.