Following his retirement as VU’s President in 2001, Summers continued to teach psychology at both VU and Indiana University, and he served as chair of the Red Skelton Museum Foundation Board that successfully opened the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy on July 18, the 100th anniversary of Skelton’s birth in Vincennes.
Summers was born in Washington, Indiana, on August 23, 1939. He attended Vincennes University, completed B.S. and M.S. degrees at Indiana University, and earned a Ph.D. in Guidance and Psychological Services at Indiana State University in 1974.
He began his career in education as a teacher and guidance counselor at Springs Valley High School in French Lick in 1960 and also served as director of Guidance at Brazil City Schools.
Summers returned to VU in 1965 as director of Financial Aid and Student Activities. He served in a variety of VU administrative positions, including Dean of Students, Director of Student Services, and Director of Community Services, while also serving as a professor of Psychology.
On July 1, 1980, Summers became VU's 18th President, beginning a 21-year era of $75 million in campus construction and expansions in Vincennes and Jasper, the development of the Aviation Technology Center at the Indianapolis International Airport, and the extension of University programs throughout the state and, through the Military Education Program, throughout the world.
Under his leadership the University initiated several other outreach services including statewide business and industry services, college courses for high school students, distance education, and Internet courses.
The VU Board of Trustees named the Phillip M. Summers Center in honor of his dedication and leadership as the 18th VU President. It is the building where he had long taught psychology. Summers’ presidency culminated in
2001 with the celebration of VU's Bicentennial, including the construction of a replica of Jefferson Academy, VU’s first building, located today at the Indiana Territory State Historic Site. Summers was named President Emeritus in July 2001.