Text Size:
Print This Page

A Tribute to Debbie Phillis

Click image to enlarge View SlideShow

The college received the sad news of the passing of staff member Debbie Phillis on June 14. A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, June 29, in the FAIRWINDS Alumni Center on the Orlando campus.

Below are thoughts about Debbie from colleagues and friends.

Employees of the College of Health and Public Affairs mourn the loss of their friend and colleague, Debbie Phillis. Debbie tragically passed away this past weekend after a bout with pneumonia. We are awaiting word on contact information for her funeral arrangements. Once we learn of the arrangements, we can share them with those of you interested in passing along your condolences. 

A two-time graduate of UCF's College of Health and Public Affairs, Debbie received her Bachelor of Arts in 1984, while obtaining a Master of Arts in 1991. She was a founding member of the Criminal Justice and Legal Studies Alumni Chapter and former chair of the Space Coast Alumni Chapter. She was also founder of the Public Affairs Scholarship and a long-time supporter of the Golden Knights Club.

Debbie also served her alma mater professionally, as a long-time employee where she worked in criminal justice and legal studies and public administration. Debbie spent much of her time advising criminal justice and legal studies students, and helping public administration students obtain and complete their internships. 

Debbie served on the Advisory Board of the Gamma of Florida Alumni Association of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society since 1989. She was a member of NACADA (National Academic Advising Association) since 1990.

In her spare time, she would also work at the UCF Arena on men's and women's basketball game days. Those of you who knew Debbie, knew her passion for UCF, and her support for athletics was second-to-none. During her UCF career, she was recognized many times through the Alumni Association, of which she was a lifetime member, for her dedicated service, receiving the Jefferson Award in 2008.

Debbie's life revolved around the University of Central Florida, and she will be missed by her friends in COHPA, by her students and by the many alumni whose lives she touched in many ways. 

- Staff members, Department of Public Administration, 6-17-09 ________________________________________________________

The news that Debbie had passed away was relayed to me this past Sunday. It was a total shock then and
still is.

I first met Debbie about five years ago when she transferred from the Brevard campus to our department. She became our Legal Studies advisor and what a god-send she was. I don't know how we got along without her before and don't know what we will do now.

Debbie never, ever turned away a student no matter what their question or issue. She helped everyone who came to her door and truly believed in doing whatever needed to be done to assist a student.

From my many years in the military, I learned what it meant to hit a brick wall when trying to get something done and I decided then that I would never be a part of that wall. Debbie was the same way.  If someone told her it could not be done, she found a way to get it done. Her approach to obtaining assistance for students could be summed up this way: "don't tell me why it can't be done - tell me how it can."  She always lived by that "rule" in her advising and was immensely successful.

One of Debbie's finest qualities and a big reason for her success was her absolute love for this university. Debbie was your consummate UCF fan - whether it was academics, alumni club, athletics, student organizations, whatever, she loved it all and was involved in every way possible. She never missed a game or an opportunity to hold tailgate parties, worked with student organizations, took part in career fairs - the list is endless. She was 100 percent dedicated to this university.

I have never met anyone who so truly believed in what she did. Her job was not work to her - it was a joy, as was being a part of UCF. We already miss her - she leaves a hole that will not be easily filled. I do believe that when Debbie receives her angel's wings, they will be black and gold!

- Sharon Richardson, Coordinator of Administrative Services, Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, 6-17-09

When I learned of the passing of my friend and beloved UCF Knight, Debbie Phillis, I was overwhelmed with sorrow. Debbie and I were friends for quite a number of years - mostly because we not only worked together, but because together, we had more Black & Gold UCF pride than anyone could ever imagine. Those of you who have attended a UCF Football game or Tailgate Party with the Colleges of Nursing and Health & Public Affairs over the past several years personally knew Debbie.

She was unbelievably dedicated to the University of Central Florida, where she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees and also worked tirelessly in student support for the College of Health and Public Affairs for countless years. In addition, Debbie also was a lifetime member of the UCF Alumni Association and was honored countless times for her work and volunteerism. She had established scholarships for students within the College of Health & Public Affairs and wanted to make sure students with less financial means could attend the university she loved so much.

I last spoke to Debbie about a week ago. I knew she was feeling ill and I advised her to see her physician in the morning; but I never comprehended just how serious the course of her illness would take. Debbie was hospitalized on Saturday afternoon for her symptoms and was dead before the end of the night.

I will miss Debbie very much. She always made sure to wake me up early enough to really make the tailgating parties for the Colleges of Nursing and Health & Public Affairs huge successful events. Football season won't be the same without Debbie honking the horn, patiently waiting for me to finally come downstairs and head to the stadium. Knowing I wasn't near the level of donor as she was, Debbie always extended her extra ticket to any exclusive high-donor Golden Knights Club event to me.

It was an honor to be friends with Debbie Phillis. I will miss her very much. God not only added a loving angel to his family, but also a fierce UCF Knight whose pride for her alma mater was evident on so many levels. I am sure Debbie will be present at every UCF sporting event from here to eternity. Good bye Debbie. Thank you for being my friend.

- Dr. Chris Blackwell ('00, '01, '05), Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, 6-17-09

It was a shock to learn of Debbie's untimely passing. Her legacy as a committed, dedicated member of the UCF community will be difficult to match.

 I first met Debbie in 1984 when she worked as a member of the office staff for the Public Service Administration Department. It was very evident then that her career goal was to be a student advisor, helping students navigate through UCF rules and regulations and on to graduation. 

When the College of Health and Public Affairs was formed in 1990, she became the head of the College Student Advising Office. In my role as Associate Dean for Student Affairs, I was very much aware of the time and effort she put into this job. She seemed to be in her office all the time, working many evenings and weekends. During those early years of the College, when the economy was not doing well and money for staff was non-existent, she worked alone most of the time, handling all of the day-to-day issues herself without any help.

Debbie thoroughly understood the graduation policies and requirements. More than anyone else, she knew the coursework and curriculum for all college majors, and was able to assist any student who walked in the door, invariably having the solution to any problem.

Debbie will be missed for her exceptional dedication to UCF and to COHPA. But most of all, she will be remembered for the countless students that
she helped.

- Dr. Wendell Lawther, Associate Professor, Department of Public Administration, 6-19-09

Share and Enjoy:

Tags :


The health care informatics master's program at UCF really helped me connect with the industry, meet people at conferences and sit for the most-desired certification exams."
— Michael Neimann M.S. in health care informatics ('14)
My internship with the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I gained an excellent understanding of the medical examiner’s office and the criminal justice field in general."
— Adam Stubley B.S. in criminal justice, criminal profiling certificate ('11)
UCF provides its physical therapy students with an excellent education and prepares them to work in the most challenging of settings."
— Jamie Dyson Rehabilitation Supervisor, Orlando Regional Medical Center
UCF's program provided me the opportunity to expedite my student experience while attaining practical experience working within local health systems."
— Daniel Barr V.P. at National Children's Hospital; M.S. in health sciences, health services administration track ('04)
My master's education helped me see the big picture of the nonprofit industry. UCF showed me how to see the different fundraising tools within the Central Florida area."
— Krysti Griffith Executive Director of Growth from Grief; Master of Nonprofit Management ('12)
The course opened my eyes to grant writing ... I learned a great deal and you [Barbara Howell] are truly an excellent instructor."
— Deborah Reith Master of Public Administration student who secured a $10,000 federal grant through a course project; B.S. in criminal justice ('86)
The skills I learned during my time at UCF are what made my transition to law school so seamless."
— Jacqueline Iaquinta Touro Law Center student; B.S. in legal studies ('10)
As an inaugural graduate of the M.R.A. program at UCF, I can attest to the outstanding curriculum developed for research administrators. "
— April Heyward Post Award Services Coordinator, University of South Carolina; Master of Research Administration ('13)
It was at UCF that I first learned many of the skills that I’ve since honed, including mapping with GIS software - an ability I found invaluable to my search for internships, graduate-level coursework, and employment."
— Richard "Ben" Hagen Research and Communications Associate, New Economy Project, New York City; B.S. in public administration ('10)
I am excited to be able to give back to the program that invested so much in me. It is truly and honor and a privilege."
— Carlos Gual Instructor of Athletic Training; B.S. in athletic training ('09)
The faculty advisor [at my medical school] was amazed that I had the opportunity to truly participate in the full spectrum of research as an undergraduate. "
— Chase Cavayero, medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicince, B.S. in health sciences - pre-clinical ('13) 
Give a Gift - The College of Healh & Public Affairs