Building a scholarship fund is a way to memorialize the ones we love, and the ones we have lost. The loss of freshman Connor Phillips is one that has shaken the Taylor community. But, Connor will be remembered through the development of a new scholarship.
“One thing that I like about scholarships is that they’re the gift that keeps on giving,” said Michael Mortensen, director of scholarships.
Mortensen received a message from a colleague, stating that a staff member — who wishes to remain anonymous for donor purposes — stepped forward to make a $10,000 donation that they desired to be matched in memory of Phillips.
“We hope that this will help us to find more students like Connor Phillips,” Mortensen said.
The first step in developing a memorial scholarship is to get approval from the family.
Mortensen reached out as soon as he had information about starting a fund.
“When I reached out to them, it touched [the Phillips family] deeply,” Mortensen said. “They immediately agreed that they wanted to see this done.”
The second step was to tell people around campus that this fund was being set up.
Mortensen had no problem finding a way to share the news.
“We asked a parent whose child has some similar health issues, and they agreed to post that information on the parents FaceBook page,” Mortensen said. “I also happened to run into a student from Second West [Wengatz] who helped.”
Since then, there have been some larger donations to the fund, but most gifts have been smaller.
They have built up to a scholarship of over $25,000 today, primarily given by current staff and students.
“We’ve had two sizable donations, but the rest of them have been $100, $50 or $20,” Mortensen said. “Collectively, those add up to make a lifetime of difference.”
When adding to the scholarship fund, donors have an opportunity to share memories of Connor.
One of Connor’s lacrosse team members wrote, “Now we have an audience in heaven.”
Another student wrote, “The genuine Connor is who you knew: funny, present, ready for anything. All this together made him a powerful force. He wore his faith on his sleeves. He didn’t beat people down with his faith, but he was a gentle giant.”
Andy Gammons, the executive director of admissions, has been working in conjunction with Mortensen to develop this scholarship. His goal is to help Connor’s memory live on in perpetuity for as long as possible. Gammons is also excited that the scholarship has a preference for students coming from Tennessee, seeing as 44% of students now come from Indiana. Phillips himself was from Franklin, Tennessee.
“We are excited that this scholarship can help students from Tennessee for years to come,” Gammons said. “Connor’s legacy is one that I hope we are talking about for a long time.”
The faculty and staff at Taylor have a great affection for the students they get to watch grow. Parents that have donated to the fund demonstrate their great value for the Taylor community, wanting to leave a lasting legacy.
“I just don’t see a better way to give an honor or memorial of someone, because it celebrates their life and I know that’s what the Phillips’ wanted,” Mortensen said.
The goal of this scholarship is that it would be awarded to incoming freshmen from Tennessee, with a preference for student athletes. Phillips was a part of the Taylor lacrosse team.
The earliest time that the scholarship would be awarded is next fall, with help from the Phillips family and other officials around campus.
“One of the beauties of death is that life goes on in memory,” Mortensen added.
To give in memory of Connor Phillips, visit http://taylor.edu/give2connorlegacy.