John Noble Phillips

PhillipsJohn Noble Phillips, 97, on November 17, 2017, in Minneapolis, Minn. Jack was born on March 24, 1920, in Evanston, Ill., the eldest of five children of Elizabeth and John Phillips. He graduated from Evanston High School and Northwestern University, where he developed ideas opposing war. During World War II he served as a conscientious objector in workcamps in the Midwest and as a subject of a starvation and rehabilitation study at University of Minnesota that aimed at effective famine relief.

While in Minnesota, he met Mary Peterson of north Minneapolis at Quaker worship, and they married in 1946. Quaker missionary work took them to Tennessee (where they taught in a one-room school) and then to California. In 1949, they joined Orange Grove Meeting in Pasadena, Calif. Jack earned a master’s degree in philosophy at University of Southern California and a doctorate at University of North Carolina and taught philosophy at the Universities of North Carolina, Georgia, and Arkansas in the early 1950s. From the mid-1950s to 1962 he taught at University of Connecticut and in 1962–1983 at St. Cloud State University, in later years doing some teaching of environmental studies. His insatiable curiosity about people and the universe endeared him to students and all those around him. In St. Cloud, Minn., Jack and Mary organized gatherings for worship and potlucks.

In retirement they moved to Minneapolis and joined Twin Cities Meeting in Saint Paul. In 1987 he helped to found Quaker Earthcare Witness (QEW) (then Friends Committee on Unity with Nature, or FCUN) and was the first editor of QEW’s newsletter, BeFriending Creation. He also wrote the popular and influential FCUN booklet Walking Gently on the Earth. Active in QEW’s committee work and attending Steering Committee meetings into the late 1990s, he was a generous financial supporter. He had diverse interests; loved learning, nature, music, travel; enjoyed thinking and writing about the cosmos; and delighted in his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Peterson. He leaves behind two children, Ellen Frohnmayer and Craig Phillips; four grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.


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