Longtime FHSU professor will retire after being on campus since 1967



Paul Phillips arrived at Fort Hays State University in 1967.

He was 27 years old, fresh off the train and had a newly minted master's degree.

An offer to visit FHSU's campus brought him to Hays and after an interview and a handshake, he was offered a job teaching at the university.

"Teaching was the focus, and boy, you taught everything. ... The department chair asked me, and I am a geographer, if I could teach economics," he said. "I said, 'I don't know a thing about economics, so I'm not going to teach that.' "

Forty-six years have passed, and Phillips, a professor of geosciences, will retire in July.

Well, not exactly.

"I'm not retiring from geography," he said with a laugh. "I will continue to be interested in those things. You need to have something you really love and do even in retirement."

Even though he is retiring, that doesn't mean he's taking a permanent leave from the classroom.

"My goal is to teach Virtual College," he said. "My other goal is to hopefully work with the person who is coming out here to replace me, and possibly do some things together so I'm not totally separated from the opportunity to interact with students."

He said while he hasn't run into a large number of students who were studying to be geographers, he has taught a lot of students who needed geography classes to round out general education requirements.

"So, I've touched a lot of students with that," he said. "Because some semesters I'd have 300 students, so you multiply that by 45 years out in western Kansas, that's a lot of students."

Phillips began with a bachelor's degree in biology from Illinois State University, but as the years passed, he found he enjoyed geography. Phillips received his master's degree in geography from ISU and moved on to get his Ph.D. from University of Kansas in 1978.

But why geography?

"I'm a naturalist," Phillips said. "I like the earth, I like studying about the earth; I like knowing about the earth."

He not only enjoys studying the Earth, but also traveling it.

Phillips has traveled all over the world, to Peru, Europe, and across the United States and more.

After retiring, Phillips hopes to continue to travel and take advantage of new opportunities.

"What I really want to do with retirement is, when opportunity knocks, to have the freedom to do what opportunity would allow me to do," he said.