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Meet a Badger – Introducing Phil Blackwell

We'd like to introduce you to Phil Blackwell, 1966 Alum!

Phil and his wife, Sally, at Camp Randall in 2015
Phil during his Junior year at the UW
  1. What is your hometown? 

I was born in Danville, IL and spent most of my grade school/high school in Menomonee Falls, WI. 

  1. Which years did you attend the UW? 

I attended from 1962-1966.

  1. What was your major and what degree did you obtain? 

As a freshman I thought I should be a doctor; the fire I accidentally set in my chem lab suggested I think again.  I considered becoming a lawyer, but the Law School students I met didn't remind me of Perry Mason.  By my junior year, having discovered what I was not good at, I declared myself an English major because I loved to read.  I remember reading seventeen Shakespearean plays in one semester and panicking at the final because all I could remember was that Richard II wanted to kill King Lear to stop him from imprisoning Juliet and insisting that Romeo marry Portia.  I graduated with a BS in English; my friends thought that was fitting.  

  1. Where do you live now? 

In 2020, my wife Sally and I moved to St. Louis to be near our two children and four grandchildren who live in University City.

  1. Describe your current job and career path. 

After graduating from Yale Divinity School in 1970 I served for 45 years as a United Methodist minister across northern Illinois — Apple River, Rockford, The University of Chicago, Wilmette, and for my final 13 years at a church on Daley Plaza in Chicago's Loop.  In 2014 I retired, and my wife Sally and I moved to our lake cottage on Whitewater Lake. In 2020 we moved to St. Louis to be near our two children and four grandchildren who live in University City.

  1. What is your favorite Badger memory? 

My UW memories — walking from Jones House to Bascom Hall in -20 degree weather, taking German and assuming that is what the teacher was speaking though I did not understand a word, being the president of a fraternity, and one September Saturday morning walking past the Memorial Union on my way to Camp Randall and seeing students getting on a bus marked "Selma." I said to myself, "Where in the world is that? You're going to miss the UW-Notre Dame game!" My world got bigger in a hurry, and I learned where Selma was, that the Cuban Missile Crisis could end my college career, and from a friend passing me on Bascom Hill on a Thursday afternoon that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

  1. How would you describe your education from the UW? 

The years at the UW gave me a broad-based education, some of it from the classroom and some from the social context.  Once I moved from Madison to New England, and then for a year to "old" England, my world got even bigger, but those college years remained a tethering point. I only wish that I had learned how to sail, fish, ice skate, and ski.  The problem with spending so much time playing touch football is once you graduate it is hard to find 21 other guys on a Saturday afternoon to play. 

  1. What is a fun fact people may not know about you? 

A curiosity — my wife is the granddaughter of Guy Lowman. So, while she grew up in Wooster, Ohio, and attended Lawrence University in Appleton, she has Madison roots.  Coach Lowman had the distinction of being the head football coach, head basketball coach, and head baseball coach at the UW all at the same time.  It was 1917-1918,  and since he was a decade older than the other coaches and already had served in the military, he stayed in Madison and coached all three sports while they went off to World War I.  After the war Lowman remained the head baseball coach for many seasons and led the Physical Education department.  Lowman was inducted into the University of Wisconsin Sports Hall of Fame in 2017, a century after his unique contribution to Badger sports.  

  1. What would you tell prospective students who are considering the UW? 

My years at the UW gave me a broad base for learning, both inside and outside of the classroom, and then afterward in my expanding world.  The university has grown wiser over the years, too, I think.  It is a great place for prospective students to consider.