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Jay Phillips, C'05, S'08

Lives of Significance

Jay Phillips, C'05, MT'08

Running the Race

After Jay Phillips, C’05, MT’08, devoted seven years to studying at the Mount, culminating with a Master of Arts in theology, he courageously questioned how to live out his purpose—spending many nights on the track under starry skies looking inward and upward.

He spent early mornings in prayer, at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception (where he often prayed alongside, proposed to and married his wife, Dale Phillips, C’05. “By the time I had graduated, the Mount community put me into a particularly difficult dilemma,” he says. “The Mount had not only given me more than I deserved but also had given me more than I had the capacity to give back.”

During his undergraduate days, Phillips majored in theology with an education emphasis and minored in philosophy and Latin. He single-mindedly pursued excellence as an athlete who ran track and field, a gifted student in the honors program and a compassionate resident assistant.

Life Lessons From Professors

He recalls that every interaction with his professors provided awareness and understanding. “They all liked what they did and they poured themselves into their students, athletes and colleagues,” Phillips recalls. Bill Collinge, Ph.D., taught him to love theology. “I still love it and I’m a better person, husband, father, friend and coach because of it.” Rev. Jim Donohue, Ph.D., guided him in how to use theology to love others more and better. David McCarthy, Ph.D., gave him the confidence that he could be successful academically and professionally. John Larrivee, Ph.D., instructed him on how to give life to his prayers. Indrani Mitra, Ph.D., taught him intellectual patience. “I still find that tremendously helpful personally and professionally,” he notes.

Phillips’ coaching mentor, Jim Stevenson, C’95, showed him what it means to sacrifice for your team. “When someone invests that much in you, it changes you—causes you to grow, to love and to share that desire with others,” he explains.

Tasked with how to live significantly, he had finally received the answer: “I can give others a love greater than my own. I can strive to give others the love of God. I can try to love my student-athletes, my staff, my colleagues in the way that God loves them. So that’s what I try to do.” As head coach of the Mount’s cross country and track and field teams since 2015 and assistant coach from 2008 to 2014, he teaches students the life-changing rewards of focus, courage, resilience, teamwork and faith.

Embracing Diversity

The word Catholic means universal. “I love the challenge of bringing such a diverse group together to strive for common goals,” he says. With nearly 120 members, the track and field team is one of the most diverse groups on campus. Teammates are invited to live, love and work next to people who wouldn’t be in their natural social circles. “Every difference they may see in a teammate has the chance to be viewed from a common foundation, a humanizing foundation. They laugh with each other, push each other and cry with each other—succeed and fail with each other; in short, they become real people to each other,” he says of his team members. “The growth from these encounters can’t be underestimated.”

As a result of his time at the Mount, he teaches student-athletes to learn from everyone they spend time with—to pay attention, listen and keep taking steps toward their best selves. In 2018, the men’s outdoor track and field team won their first Northeast Conference (NEC) Track & Field title in 21 years, and Phillips and his staff were voted by colleagues as NEC Coaching Staff of the Year.

Molder of Excellent Young Men and Women

Throughout his career, as a runner and a coach, Phillips says the track is a meaningful place on campus where he goes to find solace, joy and motivation. “My fastest race was on that track, chasing down two teammates I knew I’d never catch. I’ve cried there, I’ve sweat there, I’ve collapsed there—it’s stained my clothes red.” The Bible mentions many verses about running a race: to build perseverance, to run and not grow weary, to receive an everlasting crown and to win the prize of a higher calling.

“I’ve walked the lanes with athletes and friends in great and tough times. I’ve seen the track mold young men and women into excellent young men and women academically and athletically—it’s a training ground for more than just running fast, jumping high and throwing far.”