Fall 2006

Destination: 21st-century Asia

Phil Phillips endows Phillips Ambassadors Program for study abroad

Earl N. “Phil” Phillips Jr. credits his parents for his love of travel and for giving him an opportunity to see the world. When he was a teenager, they took him on a ship that sailed all the way to Asia.

“That trip opened my eyes to the world, and I have been traveling and exploring ever since,” he said. “Travel—especially international travel—is a great addition to any education.”

Phil Phillips (Photo by Steve Exum)

Phillips’ children, Courtney Phillips Hyder ’96 and Jordan Phillips ’04, continued the tradition by studying abroad as undergraduates. And now Phillips wants to give more UNC students the chance to have a similar experience.

Toward that end, he gave a generous gift to the study abroad program to create the Phillips Ambassadors Program in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The gift created an endowment that will provide scholarships for up to 50 undergraduates annually. Phillips Ambassadors will have the opportunity to select summer or semester terms of study from more than 40 academic programs in Asia, including 10 in China and 11 in India.

“The 21st century belongs to Asia,” Phillips said. “Hopefully, the Phillips Ambassadors Program will stimulate students to spend their study abroad experiences focused on this increasingly vital region of the world.”

A quarter of the scholarships will be reserved for qualified undergraduate business majors and minors. Phillips Ambassadors will be selected by a committee chaired by the director of study abroad and include representatives from the college and UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Madeline G. Levine, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said Phillips’ gift will significantly expand study abroad opportunities for UNC students. “Private funding for scholarships is critical; it makes it possible for all UNC students to have the opportunity for meaningful international experiences as preparation for their lives in an increasingly global society,” she said.

Phillips, a businessman and former U.S. Ambassador to the Eastern Caribbean, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Carolina in 1962. A member of the UNC Board of Trustees from 1983 to 1991, he chaired the board from 1989 to 1991. In 1995, he received a William R. Davie Award, the highest honor bestowed by the board. It recognizes extraordinary service to the University or society.

That service included co-chairing North Carolinians for Educational Opportunity 2000, which led and promoted the successful $3.2 billion referendum for capital improvements at UNC campuses and the state’s community colleges. Phillips also served for 16 years on the UNC Endowment board and for four years on the UNC Board of Governors.

Phillips’ gift is not his first contribution to international studies at Carolina. In 1992, he established the Earl N. Phillips Jr. Professorship in International Studies to help attract outstanding faculty. He was an international executive in residence at UNC Kenan-Flagler in 2003-04 and received the school’s Global Leadership Award in 2001.

Phillips has more than 35 years of international business experience. He retired in 2000 as chairman and CEO of GE Capital First Factors Corp., a High Point asset-based lending company he co-founded in 1972.

Phillips also headed Phillips Interests Inc. and Showplace, real estate and home furnishings showroom management companies, both key components of the International Home Furnishings Market headquartered in High Point.

Claire Cusick

The first Phillips Ambassadors will be selected in spring 2007. For more information about the Phillips Ambassadors Program, visit

A year of global proportions


This area of the FedEx Global Education Center will be a global cafÈ. Photo taken in August 2006.

The timing of the Phillips Ambassadors Program coincides with several other initiatives aimed at furthering global efforts at Carolina.

In his Sept. 6 State of the University address, Chancellor James Moeser said, “If there is a theme for this academic year, it is globalization.” To that end, Moeser has designated 2007 as a year of international focus for UNC.

The most visible of Carolina’s international efforts will be the opening of Carolina’s new global education center in March. The building will be named for FedEx, which contributed $5 million to the project, and will for the first time house in one place all international and area studies programs for the College of Arts and Sciences, including study abroad. It will be home to the University Center for International Studies, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services and a research center for visiting foreign and U.S. scholars, as well as graduate and professional students.

In addition to the building dedication, Carolina will launch a yearlong series of programs, conferences and activities that will emphasize the University’s increasing focus on internationalization.