Philip R. Phelps ~ "The Father of Vo-Tech": 2018 Hall of Fame Inductee
At the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Lawrence County Vocational Technical School, Arthur Zarone called on retired chief administrator Philip R. Phelps to address the assemblage. Art called Phil “The Father of Vo-Tech”.
Phil retired on October 31, 1983, after serving as the Executive Director of the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV.
Born in South New Castle at the family homestead that has been in the family since 1792, Phil’s great-grandfather was one of the early settlers in New Castle. He was married to Irene Day and had three children: Thomas, David, and Joanne.
A graduate from Westminster College with a B.S. in History in 1949 and a M.S. in Education in 1949 with additional graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh from 1951-1960, he was a U.S. Army Major, Field Artillery from 1940-1946, serving in the Philippines where he received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
His career included: Teaching Principal at South New Castle Boro School District 1949-1953; Principal, Shenango Area Schools, 1953-1958; Assistant County Superintendent, Lawrence County 1958-1966; Chief School Administrator, Lawrence County Vo-Tech 1966-1968; Assistant County Superintendent and County Superintendent 1968-1971; and Executive Director, Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV from 1971 to 1983.
Active in the community, Phil was an eight-year chairman of the New Castle City Planning Commission; Lawrence County Human Services Board, New Castle Lions Club, New Castle Rotary Club, Moraine Boy Scout Council (former commissioner) and an Elder at the First Christian Church. Career memberships included the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators; American Association of School Administrators and Pennsylvania State Education Association, executive board.
At Phil’s retirement, 23-year employee Margaret J. Hammond (Peg) noted, “As a rule, he was not difficult to work for, but on occasion, he was impossible and he knew it. He forgot that he wasn’t still a major in the army and we — buck privates. He could be a bear: sometimes the huggy bear – round, cuddly and pleasant…”
Phelps Way, the street address of Lawrence County Career and Technical Center, was named after its patron.