THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON ALUMNI MAGAZINE
Herbert J. Phillips
The professors were generally competent in presenting facts. A handful, in my case a half-dozen or so, demonstrated what to do with facts, how to think about them. I was lucky to study under skilled practitioners of several methods-the scientific, the poetic, the historical, the musical, the critical. They were the men and women who made the University more than a stack of books.
Professor Herbert Phillips began his opening lecture in Philosophy 1 by pointing to his shirt and asking what we noted. Silence. Broken by a brave stupid blurting, "It's white." I sneered, but Dr. Phillips nodded, held up a sheet of paper. "White." What was the professor up to, that the stupid had got and I had not? A piece of blackboard chalk. A bright cloud out the window. The part of the eye you must see before you shoot. White, white, white -- whiteness! I walked out on campus into grassness, under treeness, by squirrelness, studentness. Nessness! Thus I was introduced to thinking about thinking.
We went together on a five-day hike into wilds of the high Olympics. Climbing toward a summit, we were confronted by a jungle of slide alder, and before attempting it sat in the meadow. A cloud of mosquitoes descended. One settled on Dr. Phillips' forearm, an easy target. Yet he did not kill, he watched, and so did I. I could not but empathize with her struggle through the tangle of hair, as daunting as the slide alder, to reach skin, and her frustration in sinking one dry hole after another, and then her triumph in hitting a gusher and filling her belly with red, red blood, which smeared the professor's arm as he concluded the affair with a SPLAT.
Phillips was my only teacher who was fired for teaching.* I can't recall the language used by President Raymond B. Allen in overruling the faculty panel of judges; the sense of the verdict echoed that against Socrates in 399 B.C.
In my post-University years, I've pretty well continued to obey my Boy Scout oath ("On my honor I will do my duty...") and have done in (SPLAT) thousands of mosquitoes. Always with empathy, though. Evidence of how Dr. Phillips corrupted my young mind.-Harvey Manning, '46
*Editor's Note: Herbert Phillips was one of three tenured professors fired for being a Communist after the 1948 Canwell Committee hearings (see Seeing Red, Dec. 1997 Columns).
Harvey Manning is the author of Backpacking: One Step at a Time and co-author of more than 20 books about hiking in the Pacific Northwest, including the popular 100 Hikes and Footsore series. He was editor of the Washington Alumnus, the precursor to Columns, from 1962 to 1968.
Photo by Bob and Ira Spring.
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