VINCENNES — It is with profound sorrow that the family of Dr. Phillip M. Summers must announce his passing and departure from the lives of his family, friends, and associates. On Sunday he succumbed to heart failure, he was among friends and passed mercifully quick and calm. Dr. Summers was born in Washington on Aug. 23, 1939. Dr. Summers was the son of William and Mary (Alford) Summers (deceased) and survived by his wife Pat Summers (of 52 years); children Lynn Brauns and husband Kevin of Indianapolis, Pam Gardner and husband David of Vincennes, Angela McHale and husband Ed of Tampa, Fla.; grandsons Daniel Stryzinski, Eric Stryzinski, Phillip Brauns and Mitchell Brauns; brother Bill Summers and wife Bev of Washington; nephew and niece: Wes Summers, Cindy Mason and husband Jeff.
Phil was person of impeccable character, notable energy, and a dedication to selfless service. He truly learned in order to serve others. He walked the path of devotion to his God and as an educator guided by Christian morals. Phil was a man of many titles and honors, reflecting his commitment to education and service, but the title that best embodies his spirit and life was that of teacher. He will be remembered for his outstanding ability to connect with people on a deep and meaningful level whether the venue was a one on one conversation or orating to a large audience. He exuded a sincerity of the soul that made him the superb teacher he crafted himself to be.
He began his career in education as a teacher and guidance counselor in 1960 at Springs Valley High School in French Lick and in 1962 at Brazil Indiana. 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. From 1965 to 1980, Dr. Summers served at VU as dean of students, director of student personnel and vice president of community services. On July 1, 1980, Dr. Summers became VU’s 18th president. He continued his commitment to students while teaching psychology throughout his 21-year VU presidency. Under his leadership the University initiated several other outreach services including statewide business and industry services, college courses for high school students, the Military Education Program, etc. Upon retirement as president in 2001, he continued teaching psychology at both VU and Indiana University, where in 2003 he received the IU Student Choice Award for Outstanding Professor. Phil retired as VU’s president but in no form or fashion did he retire from his commitment to education, community, church, and his beloved fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi. He continued to teach psychology at both VU and Indiana University for 13 year. All in all, education has been a long term love affair. He has taught students in high school and college for 53 continuous years. He served as chair of the Red Skelton Museum Foundation Board that successfully opened the Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy on July 18, 2013, the 100th anniversary of Skelton’s birth in Vincennes.
A mention of some of his many accolades and noble endeavors include: he is the recipient of VU’s Blue and Gold Cord Award, Walter A. Davis Citation, and the Presidents’ Award. Summers also was named Sagamore of the Wabash by three Indiana Governors and received Distinguished Alumni awards from both Indiana University and Indiana State University. In 2003 he received the IU Student Choice Award for Outstanding Professor. Other awards included Civitan’s Citizen of the Year award, Kiwanis President’s Award for Distinguished Spiritual Community Service, the Fourth of July Spirit of ‘76 award, and 1986 Indiana Vocational Association’s Outstanding Vocational Administrator award. Dr. Summers was a past chair of the board of trustees of the Christian Theological Seminary and had served on the board of St. Mary of the Woods College. He served on the regional and international boards of the Disciples of Christ Church, including extensive service to First Christian Church in Vincennes. The founder of the Miss VU Scholarship Program, for many years he served as the Miss Indiana Pageant Scholarship Chairman. He also was a long-time member of the Indiana Vocational Awards for Excellence Committee. During his career he also served on multiple boards including the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Conference of Higher Education, Indiana Business Modernization and Technology Corporation, Vincennes YMCA, and Knox County Development Corporation. Most recently, he chaired the Red Skelton Museum Foundation Board. He was also past national president of Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity, and the Executive Committee of the Council of North Central Two-Year Colleges. Through the years Summers served Knox County as president of the United Way, Heart Association, Chamber of Commerce, and Community Foundation.
Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Thursday at the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center on the Vincennes University Campus. Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the First Christian Church and also from 9:30 a.m. until service time Thursday. Contributions may be made to the First Christian Church, Red Skelton Museum, Vincennes University Foundation, Knox County Community Foundation, or Pi Kappa Phi.