College Awards Honorary Doctorate to Ron Phillips for his Leadership in Community Economic Development

Ron celebrating with family and friends.

Ron L. Phillips, founder and retired president and CEO of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), received an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service during the Saint Joseph’s College Commencement exercises on May 13, 2017. The College recognized Phillips’ public service in developing financial investment and legislative initiatives that have created economic opportunity nationwide for people and places at the margins of the economy. A prolific author, Phillips has been extensively recognized for his expertise: in 2012, he was appointed by the Obama Administration to the CDFI Fund Advisory Council of the U.S. Treasury, he also served on the Federal Reserve Bank’s Board of Governors’ Consumer Advisory Council, and in 2013, Phillips received the Ned Gramlich Award for Responsible Finance, his industry’s highest honor. Philips is now bringing his sustainable development expertise to Saint Joseph’s College and the Lakes Region. As Co-chair of Saint Joseph’s Mission-Aligned Business Advisory Council, Phillips is helping to guide sustainable economic development initiatives that will advance the College’s strategic goals for the 21st century .

President James Dlugos said, “Ron Phillips has been committed to the principles of social and economic justice throughout his career. With pleasure, we honor his long history of serving those with the greatest need through financial investment strategies. Mr. Phillips represents the pinnacle of the type of service we aim to inculcate in our students. Also, we are grateful that he is providing invaluable leadership and vision as the College moves forward with the bold initiatives of the Mission-Aligned Business Council, initiatives that seek to promote sustainable agriculture and agritourism, the development of a 55+ wellness residential community, and a comprehensive Hospitality program, all within Maine’s Lakes Region. We are deeply grateful for his service and pleased to honor him with an Honorary Doctorate of Public Service.”

Of the College’s announcement, Phillips said, “This honorary doctorate is especially welcomed coming from Saint Joseph’s College, whose own roots reach back to Sister Catherine McCauley, the Irish nun who founded the Catholic Women’s Religious Congregation in the early part of 19th century Dublin, Ireland. McCauley inspired the development of an international network of institutions and services devoted to education, health, housing, and social justice, much like CEI’s network of over 4,000 similar entities in the U.S. active in rural neighborhoods and rural regions.”

Armed with a Master’s of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary of New York City and with completion of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program, Phillips pursued mission-driven financing. Phillips’ philosophy, rooted in the Civil Rights Movement, led to his work with international economic development and fair labor practices. These experiences exposed him to the global disparity of wealth and the challenges associated with inaccessibility of capital. When he relocated to Maine, with his wife Suzanne, he set out to address Maine’s social and economic problems with a new set of financing practices aimed at a more equitable distribution of resources.

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