OC pays tribute to Lou Phillips

Lou Phillips

Lou Phillips, longtime executive assistant at Oklahoma Christian, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 6. She was surrounded by family and she passed peacefully.

Visitation will be Friday, Jan. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Matthews Funeral Home (601 S. Kelly) in Edmond, Okla.

Her memorial service will be Saturday, Jan. 12 at 10:30 a.m. at Memorial Road Church of Christ. Please remember Lou's family in your thoughts and prayers.

*As requested by the family, in lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Oklahoma Christian University with a note to go to the Lou Phillips' Memorial Endowment. There is no place nearer and dearer to her heart than OC.

On the occasion of OC's 50th anniversary, Lou was named one of the "50 Who Made A Difference" at Oklahoma Christian. Here is that tribute to Lou from 2000:

At Oklahoma Christian University, saying the name “Lou” has the same effect as saying “Cher” or “Elvis” to music fans. No last name is needed because everyone knows “Lou.” Lou is a friend of Oklahoma Christian in every sense of the word.

During more than three decades at Oklahoma Christian, Lou served as executive assistant to President J. Terry Johnson and later as a coordinator of special projects, where her work won friends for the university worldwide. Lou was the liaison between Dr. Johnson and highly distinguished guests, including the President of the United States. Serving as official hostess for the 1992 visit of President George Bush, Lou took it all in stride: arrangements with the White House speechwriters, rooms and refreshments for the President, security, all of it.

Placing a best foot forward for the university, Lou spent two decades beside its president and first lady, directing an office and countless events virtually behind the scenes. “Whatever it takes to do the job,” Lou is said to have responded just before she accepted her position with Dr. Johnson. The rest is history. She followed that statement with tireless service to Oklahoma Christian that culminated in a 1995 Spring Dinner in her honor.

Energetic, dedicated, creative, organized, fun, talented, capable, responsible, flexible and thorough are all words Lou’s coworkers have used to describe her. Lou also embodies the phrase “King Maker,” as she considers former OC president Kevin Jacobs and current Pepperdine University president Andrew Benton (an OC alumnus) her boys.

Here is a 2005 Edmond Sun feature on Lou:

Local woman lives ‘a wonderful life’
By Mark Schlachtenhaufen

Lou Phillips has lived a wonderful life.

Her husband worked in the Apollo Program in the 1960s during the American-Soviet sprint to land a man on the moon. She has met two U.S. presidents. And she has a loving family and many friends.

But not long ago, Phillips nearly lost her life.

“Prayer is what saved me,” Phillips said.

In December 2003, Phillips went to a suburb of Washington, D.C., to spend Christmas with her nephew, Mark Hayes. As she prepared for the return trip, she became delirious, the result of the pneumonia that had been slowly progressing for some time. 

On a Sunday evening, Hayes rushed her to a hospital in Fairfax, Va., where she was put on a respirator. That Tuesday morning, a nurse called Hayes at work.

“She said ‘If you want to see her you’d better come now,”‘ Phillips said Hayes was told.

She was put in intensive care for three weeks, and hovered between life and death. More than once, the doctors decided she would not survive.

Then word went out from her doctors that it would take a medical miracle for her to overcome her illness. Like a living tidal wave, a prayer chain dedicated to Phillips began to grow. Her daughter, Lori Walle, began sending e-mail messages and people all around the world, many of whom did not know Phillips personally, prayed for her.

Locally, at Oklahoma Christian, students were praying for her in class. Members of her church, the Memorial Road Church of Christ, were praying for her. Friends in California, churches in Virginia, missionaries and alumni were praying for her.

“I really think that prayer is what saved me and I think the doctors would probably agree,” Phillips said. “I knew that they had done all that they could medically and the rest was just up to me and God.”

After the first week, her daughter, acting on her behalf, brought in a new doctor who put Phillips on a new medication regimen, which gave her body a “jolt.” In all, Phillips was in the hospital for two months. During the rehabilitation process, she had to relearn basic functions like how to walk.

“He wasn’t through with me,” Phillips said.

Initially, Phillips wondered why her life had been spared. Those feelings were magnified by the multitude of supportive e-mail messages she later read.

“I thought, ‘What does He have in store for me?’ because, I guess He wasn’t through with me,” Phillips said.

She also influenced a woman there during her rehabilitation. The roommate, who was being treated for a brain tumor, did not believe in the power of prayer, said Phillips, who had several conversations with her. Phillips does not know what happened to the woman, but she hopes she had some impact on her. 

Phillips said several factors spurred her recovery. First, her many friends helped keep her going. At that time, OC was experiencing an administrative transition and she had experience and relationships in the university’s community at large that could be useful to the new president.

A scant year and a half later, Phillips is back at work, walking up a storm, volunteering on a periodic basis at OC, assisting with various special projects. 

The Space Race

In 1973, Phillips and her husband, Art Phillips, moved to Edmond.

During the 1960s, Art worked in the Apollo Program, as a technical writer at the Mississippi Test Facility in a division operated by Rockwell International. Later renamed the John C. Stennis Space Center, the facility was to flight certify all first and second stages of the Saturn V rocket. The first static test firing began in 1966 and they continued into the early 1970s.

“It was very exciting,” Phillips said. “The deal was to beat the Russians so the guys were working 10 hours a day, six days a week.”

The engines that would propel the space capsule were sent from the manufacturing plant in California to Mississippi, the last step before launch.

“Rockwell’s second stage shot ‘em out of Earth orbit,” Phillips said.

“Then Rockwell had the capsule the astronauts were in. On launch day we were all sitting there waiting for our part to kick in.”

A couple of years after arriving in Edmond, Phillips obtained employment with OC, serving as an administrative assistant to then-President J. Terry Johnson. During various university fundraising functions Phillips built relationships with the presidents of Exxon, Conoco and Southwestern Bell.

“What job could I have had that would have provided those opportunities?” Phillips said. “I really couldn’t think of any other job.”

Bush I and Bush II

In 1992, Phillips was the university’s official hostess for President George Bush’s official campaign visit to the campus.

During the planning stage, a member of the president’s staff let it be known that they knew someone in the OC president’s office.

Prior to the visit, Phillips worked with White House advance staff, making necessary arrangements, which included finding suitable rooms for the White House press corps, and she assisted members of the Secret Service with their security needs.

Later, a member of the Secret Service told her that because of the lack of tall buildings this particular visit was like a “vacation” for them.

Additionally, Phillips worked on other details such as arranging the president’s holding room and where to put the Teleprompter, which under her direction was concealed by plants.

She also delivered some information about OC to Bush’s speechwriter.

And she learned that the White House press corps and the traveling press that cover the president are two different groups. 

“I learned a lot about campaign stops,” Phillips said.

Phillips recalled her introduction to President Bush.

“Everybody says he’s really personable, and he really is,” Phillips said. “He’s so down to earth that you just feel you can talk to him as if you’ve known him a while.”

Not only did Phillips meet President George Bush, she also got to meet George W. Bush, not once, but two times prior to his becoming president.

OC President Mike O’Neal, who assumed office in January 2002, said half-jokingly that he won’t let Phillips fully retire until he does.

“Lou Phillips is one of the most beloved and most valuable people around this university,” O’Neal said. “She has been extraordinarily useful to me as a new guy coming in from the outside. She also has a great love for Christian education and for people. The reason that people love her is because she loves them.”