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AU News

Parents contribute $150,000 to support Center for Student Success

December 10, 2018

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David McPhillips had something to prove to himself and to his family when he enrolled at Anderson University. He’d taken a few years off after high school and made one unsuccessful attempt at college in his home state of Alabama. 

“I decided to give college another try,” he said. 

His online search for a residential Christian university where he could study youth ministry eventually led him to AU, where he found support from the Center for Student Success

“I wanted to prove that I could graduate (from) college, and there was a time when I didn’t know if I could do it,” he said. “I had mental roadblocks. The center helped me overcome those roadblocks. It helped me be more disciplined and organized.”

His whole experience at AU was transformative. 

“I really loved it,” he said. “I called the campus the holy ground because I experienced a lot of healing and spiritual growth there.”

McPhillips’ experience at AU—and especially the role of the Center for Student Success—was a blessing for his parents, Julian and Leslie McPhillips.

“It’s wonderful that AU has outreach to students who need extra help,” said Julian McPhillips. 

David Larson McPhillips Center for Student Success Anderson UniversityWith appreciation and in honor of their son, the McPhillipses recently gave $150,000, one of the university’s largest naming gifts, to support what is now called the David Larson McPhillips Center for Student Success. 

“The great thing is their willingness and generosity to honor their son because he benefited from the center’s services,” said Wayne Landrith, AU’s Senior VP for Development and Presidential Affairs. “It speaks volumes to how parents want to invest in AU because they believe in a university. Parents make up a sizeable portion of gifts to the university every year, and we’re very appreciative of that.”

The monetary gift from the McPhillips family paid for renovation of space in the Thrift Library, to which the center has relocated. It also supports a new program called 4ward that will provide assistance to students admitted a step below regular admission standards. It will also be used for additional programs that may be developed over the next few years to further the goals of the center, which works one on one with students through tutoring and seminars to support them in their academic work. The center also offers accessibility services for students with diagnosed disabilities.

“David is a fine young man who just needed a little help to get along the way while in college,” said Dr. Dianne King, Director of the David Larson McPhillips Center for Student Success. “We were honored to be part of helping him through and honored to receive this gift from his family.”

David McPhillips, who graduated from AU in 2016 with a degree in Christian studies with a youth ministry emphasis, works as a counselor at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, and is thinking about returning to school to become certified as a teacher. He has spent time doing mission work in Belize and the Philippines though he considers his most significant mission experience to be time spent working at Trails Carolina, a youth wilderness therapeutic program in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina.

For his father, Julian McPhillips, a noted civil rights attorney in Montgomery, Alabama, David’s very life is a sign of divine providence. Julian McPhillips remembers counseling a young married couple who were five months pregnant not to abort their child at the same time that he and his wife were seeking to adopt a child after three miscarriages. They already had two daughters but wanted another child, and the call soon came that the young couple’s baby would be theirs. 

This experience transformed their family and provided further evidence of what Julian McPhillips’ father always said. He had left the family vegetable canning business to attend seminary and become an Episcopal priest. Explaining that decision to his son, he said, “I’ve decided to bet my life that what Jesus said in the gospels is true.” To Julian McPhillips, the adoption of his own son was “faith in action” and an extension of the gospel message about helping little children.

Interested in a naming opportunity gift? Contact Wayne Landrith at 864-231-2025 or

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