Phibbs was the college's 11th president, serving the Puget Sound community from 1973 to 1992

Philip M. Phibbs

TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound mourns the passing of President Emeritus Philip M. Phibbs, who died in Tacoma, Wash., on Monday, March 21, 2022, at the age of 90.

“President Phibbs was a visionary leader who guided Puget Sound through two decades of tremendous change,” said current Puget Sound President Isiaah Crawford. “Generations of Loggers have benefitted from his unwavering dedication to our community and efforts to propel the university forward. There is no way to adequately express how influential he was in shaping the university we know and love today.”

Phibbs served as the 11th president of University of Puget Sound from 1973 to 1992. During this period, he was the driving force behind the university’s development as a selective liberal arts college focused on academic excellence. Under his leadership, Puget Sound established a chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, created an independently governed board of trustees, and adopted a core curriculum, which remains at the heart of a Puget Sound education. In 1983, the university established the Philip M. Phibbs Distinguished Professorship in Politics and Government in his honor. Phibbs and his administration raised more than $47 million for the university’s Centennial Campaign, which concluded in 1988, and increased Puget Sound’s endowment by $50 million during his tenure. In 1990, construction was completed on the campus’s 10th residence hall, dedicated as Phibbs Hall in 1992.

President Philip M. Phibbs and Gwen Phibbs, at the dedication of New Hall as Phibbs Hall, 1992

Immensely influential in the founding of Tacoma’s Museum of Glass and the revival of the Blue Mouse Theater in the Proctor District, Phibbs was an active and enthusiastic community advocate. He held board leadership roles in many organizations, including the Seattle Opera, Museum of Glass, Association of American Colleges, American Political Science Association, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church. 

Phibbs and his wife, Gwen, remained in Tacoma following retirement, staying in touch with colleagues, volunteering in the community, and frequently attending campus events. In 2016, he took part in the inauguration of Puget Sound’s 14th president, Isiaah Crawford, along with Presidents Emeriti Susan Resneck Pierce and Ronald Thomas. 

A memorial service, open to the public, will be held Saturday, April 9, at 1 p.m., in Kilworth Memorial Chapel. A reception will follow.  Those unable to attend in person may livestream the service. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be directed to the Dirk Andrew Phibbs Memorial Fund and the Kathy Phibbs Memorial Fund at University of Puget Sound at or by mail to University of Puget Sound, Office of Donor Relations, 1500 N. Warner St. #1011, Tacoma, WA 98416-1011.

Memorial attendees must be current on COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters or, if not fully vaccinated and boosted, must have a negative day-of COVID-19 test result and wear an N95 mask while in attendance. For more information about the university's response to COVID-19, visit