Stephen Phillips was a member of a prominent Salem, Massachusetts family that for many years had been actively involved in the merchant sailing era of Salem that followed the American Revolution. By the 1840s, shipping activity in Salem declined largely due to the use of clipper ships and the silting up of the Salem harbor. With the sale of their last ship in 1845, the Phillips turned to political, philanthropic and educational endeavors.
Following his graduation from Harvard in 1929, Stephen continued on in the family tradition of working in the Phillips Family Office. During those years, he struggled with tuberculosis, often seeking treatment for his ailment, and it was during a stay at Saranac Lake in New York that he met his future bride, Betty Wright, who was seeking a cure for brucellosis.
They were brought together by a mutual interest in ham radio and within a short period were married and set up home next door to Stephen’s childhood home at 34 Chestnut Street in Salem.
Following their marriage, the two took a great interest in helping students obtain a college education which for many in Salem was not within reach. Mrs. Phillips was particularly interested in assisting students achieve a college education as she personally struggled for years to complete her undergraduate and graduate degrees due to finances and health issues.
With Stephen Phillips’s death in 1971, Betty Phillips set about to establish a substantial scholarship fund to help college students with limited financial resources achieve high academic goals. Twenty years after her husband death, Mrs. Phillips set in motion what is today the Stephen Phillips Memorial Scholarship Fund. Following her death in 1996, well over 3,000 students have been assisted with $43,000,000 having been paid in scholarship grants.
In addition to the establishment of the Phillips Scholarship Fund, acting upon her husband’s wishes at the time of his death, Mrs. Phillips opened her husband’s boyhood home to the public. Click here to visit the Phillips House Site.