Gary Phillips and his family in Kpalime, Togo in West Africa

Daytonian of the Week is quietly making university a better place, while following his calling

Dayton might sometimes forget about the little towns that surround it. Citizens might forget about communities like Cedarville, just a 30-minute drive away from the city. They might also forget (or not even know) about the small Christian university that is tucked away in the village.

Along those same lines, Cedarville University students and faculty might often forget about the men and women who work hard to keep the school upright. Gary Phillips is one of those individuals. At 54 years old, Phillips is photographer currently working as an electrician at the university while pursuing a degree in journalism. He wants to use that new degree to travel across the world doing missions work.

Meet Gary Phillips, our Daytonian of the Week.

Phillips and his missions team helped build a house for this family in Guatemala.
Photo: Contributed

When did you first start working for Cedarville? How long have you been there and what do you do?

I have been involved with Cedarville University since around 1981, as my church youth group would visit the campus for different activities. About 4 1/2 years ago I was working as a commercial photographer when one day I received a request from Rodney Johnson (V.P. of business division at Cedarville University) via Facebook asking me if I would be willing to apply for an open electrician position at the university. As a rule, I always take a look at jobs when they come looking for me, so I applied and have been working at the university as a maintenance electrician for the past 4 1/2 years.

I feel like most of the work you do at Cedarville is behind the scenes, and might go unnoticed by a lot of people. Do you feel like this is accurate? If so, what is it that keeps you going?

Yes, a lot of what I do is definitely behind the scenes and rarely gets noticed, but I don't really do it for the recognition. To be honest when I took the job I didn't really want it but for whatever reason I felt like this is where God wanted me to be working. So I gave up a job that I loved to go back to what I had done most of my life. I think what keeps me going is knowing that what I am doing isn't for me but somehow it's for God and that's all I need to know.

You are also pursuing a degree from Cedarville. Can you talk about why you decided to do this?

I am pursuing a degree in Journalism so I can one day use my photography skills and my journalism skills on the mission field. I would love to one day travel to places where other missionaries are serving and document the work they are doing, more importantly the work that God is doing through these missionaries. There are so many stories that are never told because there aren’t enough journalists doing this kind of work.

You talked about wanting to use your degree for missions work. You’ve been on a few missions trips. Can you talk about those experiences?

I have been on several missions trips to many different countries as well as some places here in the U.S. One of my more recent trips was to Guatemala, where we were able to do many different things to help the people in the villages around Guatemala City. We were able to build a house for a mother and her children, a large chicken coop for a village, fire safe ovens, work in the schools, provide food for some of the school lunches and many other things.

If you could be any movie character, who would you be and why?

If I could be any movie character I think I would want to be Star Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy because he seems to enjoy life no matter what life throws at him.

What inspires you about your community (Cedarville, the university and the greater Dayton area)? How do you think it can continue to grow and improve?

I am inspired by people who do good things for others regardless of the cost to themselves. When I see other people being the hands and feet of Christ to the people of their community and neighborhoods it inspires me to want to do the same. If I can be inspired by one other person to do something good for someone else, and what I do can inspire another, then hopefully it will be enough to inspire a community to do good that could inspire a state that could inspire the country that could inspire the world. 

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