Upgraded pool facility will be named in honor of Winnie Phillips

Posted on February 28, 2017

Winnie Phillips receives honorary degree at 2012 commencement.

Winnie Phillips, seated, receives honorary degree at commencement in 2012. With her are, from left, Dr. Brad Christie, Joe H. Patrick III (then Erskine Board Chairman) and retired Erskine administrator Bill Lesesne.

A joint effort aimed at raising funds to repair, renovate, and reopen the Erskine swimming pool, undertaken by Erskine College and the Town of Due West just after Christmas, is moving forward quickly.

Due West Mayor Charles Angel said that shortly after he was elected mayor, he began receiving inquiries from town residents “about what we could do to help bring back the Erskine pool.”

After Angel met over coffee one morning with Erskine Vice President for Communications Cliff Smith, discussing projects of mutual benefit to Erskine and the Due West community, he decided to broach the subject of the pool with the Due West Town Council. “[They] passed a resolution urging Erskine College to open the swimming pool and related facilities for the use of the college and the citizens of Due West,” Angel said.

Since Erskine did not have the funds to renovate the pool, the mayor said, he met with Lee Logan, an Erskine alumnus, retired Erskine administrator, and former mayor of Due West, and town attorney Paul Agnew, also an Erskine graduate and a former state representative for the district. “[We] came up with the idea of creating a joint-use contract between the town and Erskine regarding the pool.”

The agreement between Erskine and the Town of Due West “stated that the community would raise the funds necessary by April 2018 to renovate the pool, while Erskine College would be responsible for annual operations, maintenance, insurance, and staffing,” Angel explained.

The agreement ensured that the Due West community would be able to use the pool, and also stipulated that if sufficient funds were not raised by April 2018, donations would be returned.

Angel worked with Agnew, Erskine Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Greg Haselden, and Smith on the details of the joint-use agreement, which was signed Dec. 2, 2016. An informational meeting for the community Dec. 13 resulted in the formation of a committee to lead the fund-raising effort.

Heading the committee were Paul Bell, Erskine College alumnus and director of The Renaissance (originally Due West Retirement Center, later Covenant Way), and Winnie Morrison Phillips, also an Erskine graduate and for 16 years alumni director at the college. A formal campaign was launched in January. In addition to Bell and Phillips, committee members include Charles Angel, David Grier, Dick and Jan Haldeman, Herb and Effie Jordan, and John A. Simpson.

Meanwhile, the mayor had met with Erskine Student Government Association (SGA) President Michael Byrd, who invited him to speak to an SGA meeting in November.

“The pool was open my freshman year, and I remember how much fun students had in it. I enjoyed it myself ,” Byrd said. “So, when we heard that the community was raising funds to save the pool, we were eager to participate!”

Soon the Erskine College student body was making a significant contribution to the pool project. Donations from the Student Government Association, Student Christian Association, Erskine Entertainment Board, Rock Climbing Club, and Student Finance Committee now stand at about $20,000, according to Byrd.

Even with an increase in the fund-raising goal from $80,000 to $131,500—owing to the need for more extensive repairs than originally planned—the campaign has met with remarkable success. Erskine Vice President for Alumni and Advancement Buddy Ferguson said more than $55,000 donated cash is on hand for the pool project and these cash contributions, combined with pledges not yet paid, total $131,090 as of February 28.

The mayor is more than pleased.

“Here we are in February, on the verge of the dream scenario with the possibility of the pool opening in the summer of this year!” Angel said. “We are not there yet, but this is a great example of what we can do when the town, community, students, college, and retirement center come together for a common goal.”

Plans are in place to reopen the pool in June this year, with the renovated facility to be named for Phillips.

“Although officially retired, Winnie has actually headed up the current project for the Erskine pool renovation,” Bell said. “Her family and many of her friends colluded without her knowledge and asked the Erskine Board of Trustees to name the pool in her honor. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to do so, and Winnie was informed at a party celebrating her 97th birthday.”

In addition to her service at Erskine, Phillips worked as a fund-raising consultant with Ward, Dresham and Reinhardt in Ohio and helped to establish the Due West Retirement Center (now The Renaissance).

“Throughout her career as a fund-raiser, Winnie has raised multiple millions of dollars for worthy causes, many of those in Due West on behalf of Erskine College and Seminary and Due West Retirement Center,” Bell said. “She has also been a significant contributor to many causes, though she has always insisted that her gifts remain anonymous.”

During Phillips’ tenure as  alumni director, Erskine’s “Living Endowment” annual giving program, now the Annual Fund, earned eight national awards. Erskine awarded her the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 2012.

Ferguson noted that many contributions to the pool project have come from Phillips’ family and friends, and Bell reveals one aspect of that connection.

“Winnie’s granddaughter, Isabel Phillips, has many fond childhood memories of coming to visit Winnie in Due West during the summer and spending time at the pool,” Bell said. “Isabel and her husband Peter became very interested in the renovation project and suggested that it might be named in Winnie’s honor.”

Donations to the pool project are tax deductible and should be designated “Pool Renovation” and sent to Erskine College (Attention: Buddy Ferguson), P.O. Box 338, Due West, SC 29639.