Luke and Victoria Phillips Receive MPC President’s Award

By Joyce Doherty

“When I was growing up my parents always told me to give back to the community,” Victoria Phillips says, “and that’s exactly what I did.” She looks to her husband Luke Phillips, with whom she earned the Monterey Peninsula College President’s Award. “That’s exactly what we did.”

As a token of their 85 years of combined dedication to Monterey Peninsula College, Luke and Victoria Phillips received the President’s Award, one of the most prestigious awards presented by the school, at the Monterey Marriott on April 28 at the annual President’s Address luncheon.

“Luke and Vicki have always been among the top supporters on the MPC campus, not only when they served as staff members, but also as volunteer fundraisers with the MPC Foundation and the MPC Alumni Committee,” MPC President Walter Tribley said. “They tirelessly give their time to the college to create new scholarships and new opportunities for our students. They truly are MPC.”

According to Rebecca Michael, executive director of the MPC Foundation, the President’s Award is presented to an outstanding individual or couple who have demonstrated a commitment to supporting the college and the community that it serves.

“There’s a strong element of philanthropic, financial support for the college, but it goes beyond that as well,” Michael says. “It also includes helping the college advance in the community. Luke and Victoria are always out in the community, celebrating the college and even helped develop the MPC Alumni Association.”

Victoria and Luke Phillips

The Phillipses have been a part of the MPC community for years. Both have attended MPC, Victoria spent 43 years working in the administration office and Luke for 42 years as a football, golf and tennis coach and physical education teacher.

Over their many years of service at MPC they have seen, met, helped, and advised many students. A result of this hard work is the loud greeting of “Hey, Coach” from Luke’s former athletes.

“I don’t think that we can go anywhere on the Peninsula without someone yelling coach,” Luke says laughing. “One time we were in Hawaii on the escalator and I heard ‘Hey coach!’ from somewhere in the room.”

After graduating from MPC in 1967 with a degree in secretarial science, Victoria became an administrative assistant. Eventually she moved on to become the executive assistant to the superintendent.

Besides helping them at school, the Phillips have helped several students get back on their feet and on the path to success. One example is Will Robins, a student from England, who came to MPC for a restart, and the Phillips let him stay with them until he was able to get his own housing and at the same time was attending the college.

“He is doing great now,” Victoria says. “We even have dinner with his family sometimes.”

A friend of Victoria and an MPC employee, Tone Nichols, believes that Vicki and Luke have been extremely helpful and giving to all.

“They both exhibit selfless service,” Nichols says. “They have given so much of themselves and done so much for MPC and generations of students; they have touched so many lives and they have left an indelible impression on hundreds — maybe thousands — of people.”

Even though neither of the two are still working at MPC, the college is still in their lives as they volunteer at the MPC Foundation, aimed at helping students attend college through Student Assistant programs and the MPC Alumni Association which works to raise funds for scholarships and bring people to the college for social activities.

Retired California Appellate Justice Nate Agliano, a longtime friend of Luke, agrees that he is very loyal and just an amazing friend. His loyalty went as far as motivating Agliano to return to school by contacting the baseball coach at UC Berkeley.

“They are both such a wonderful people to be around, and I’m so glad to have met them” Agliano says. “Victoria is a natural leader and like her husband, they are both so supportive and thoughtful, taking a great interest in students, friends and the community. This award is long overdue for all the work they have done.”

Alongside Luke’s accomplishments, he is the third winningest football coach in the state at the time of his retirement. Additionally he is the first coach to be inducted in two California College hall of fames — for golf and football, according to Luke’s friend Chris Pappas who served as Luke’s assistant coach for many years and still volunteers as a coach at MPC. “The thing about Luke is he is stubborn,” Pappas says, “and you know where he stands, and he’s not bashful about telling you.”

Former MPC Football coaches from left: Tor Spindler (deceased), Luke Phillips, Chris Pappas.

In school, Luke was not the greatest, however his appreciation for education — writing in particular — changed during a class.

“I didn’t focus too much on school, until I had this one teacher in college” Luke says. “She assigned me all these books to read for her English class. During that time I became an avid reader and learned to appreciate literature. My favorite — by far — was definitely ‘Return of the Natives’; I was crying by the end of it.”

When he realized that football was not all life had to offer, he had hopes of becoming a journalist; however, his aspirations were short-lived.

“I applied for a job at the Monterey Herald, I wanted to be a sports writer,” Luke says reminiscing about the past. “The only spot they had open was a writer for the society page, at 55 dollars a week. Boy was I disappointed and thus came an end to my intentions of being a journalist.”

Luke was part of the first graduating class from MPC in 1948 and at the time was co-captain of the football team. After he attended University of California Berkeley, he came back to MPC and began working at MPC in 1957.

While neither live by distinct principles, there definitely are quotations that they enjoy and live by.

“These are two of my favorite quotes: ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’ and ‘You can’t fight city hall with a ham sandwich,’” Luke says, laughing about his food analogy. “What I’ve learned is that there is no easy way to solve a problem, you have to work to solve it.”

However, Victoria lives by another quotation.

“‘You can never go wrong doing the right thing.’ Sometimes doing the right thing will cost you, and sometimes it can be the unpopular choice, but you still have to do it,” Victoria says.

A trustee of the MPC governing board, Loren Steck has worked aside Victoria and seen the hard work she puts in. When Steck was first elected in 2003, Victoria was secretary to the President of the college, and she knew everyone and everything.

“She was such a great mentor . . .” Steck says. “It is hard for me to imagine a time when Luke or Victoria were without smiles on their faces. They are so cheery and upbeat and obviously very much in love with each other.”

Even though their romance has existed a long time, the couple still argue about when they first met.

“I was a shy and sensitive freshman in Luke’s class, and he would always use me as a demonstration for the activity we were supposed to be doing. It was nothing romantic,” Victoria says.

However, their relationship did not develop until after Victoria had graduated and began to work for the administrative office. As part of Luke’s duties as football coach, he had to make sure that his athletes were eligible to play on the Saturday night games.

“And I had to go to the secretary of the registrar, where Victoria worked,” Luke says. Continuing, he laughed and said “and I’d be very charming every time I visited the window and that’s how our relationship grew.”

While their romance did not impact their professions negatively, as they were on opposite sides of the campus so their work days did not involve being by each other’s side.

“He introduced me to staff that worked in his department and I would introduce him to my peeps that he didn’t know,” Victoria says. “We felt very comfortable in the MPC community. Also there were other married couples in the MPC community, mostly teachers.”

Both Victoria and Luke were married once before meeting each other. While the two never had children together, Luke’s five children and Victoria’s daughter from their previous marriage made up their new family.

In August 1976, they got married in Pebble Beach, but Keri, Victoria’s daughter was only three at the time and Luke’s children were all grown up and living on their own. Due to this, Luke and Keri grew very close and have a very loving relationship. Even so, the family grew close.

“During the earlier years, the children accompanied their father to games and cheered for the MPC Lobos, and some of the boys even played for Luke,” Victoria says. “Family is very important to us.”

Today family is still in their lives, with their 14 grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren who live on the peninsula and across the country.

While Luke argues that his wife “tamed him,” his sense of humor and laughter is part of their relationship. It is always able to break the tension, Victoria says.

Luke agrees with a smile. “When you quit laughing, you quit living; it’s the truth.”

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