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Waterloo is Still Home for Thomas and Carline Phillips

May 28, 2021

Thomas and Dr. Carline Phillips haven’t lived in their hometown since 1966, but when asked where home is, they agree it’s Waterloo. Both were influenced by hardworking, generous parents, their church family, and those in their community. The east side of Waterloo was where they learned lessons that would impact them for a lifetime. “Looking back, Waterloo and our churches were the places that supported us. They helped create who we are today,” said Carline. “It was quite a caring community,” added Thomas. “People took an interest in you, whether they were blood relatives or not. That’s why I think of Waterloo as home because I got a base there.”

The couple’s paths would run parallel as they grew up, going to neighborhood schools and graduating from Waterloo East High School, Thomas in 1961, and Carline in 1964. They connected at State College of Iowa, now the University of Northern Iowa. After Thomas graduated, he and Carline married and moved to Chicago. It was one of many moves throughout the U.S. they would make for Thomas’s career. During this time, Carline continued her education, ending with a Ph.D. from Iowa State University, while teaching at all levels from elementary to college. The couple returned to Iowa, moving to Waukee, where Thomas worked for Dupont Pioneer until his retirement in 2007.

Through all the moves and different communities, Thomas and Carline never forgot where they came from and the values it instilled. Of the many lessons learned, the importance of education is high on the list. The couple experienced first-hand the difference it can make. To help today’s students, Thomas and Carline have established three scholarship funds with the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa. These funds provide scholarships to Waterloo East High School graduates, prioritizing Black students seeking higher education. “I don’t want to see other generations of African-Americans go through poverty generation after generation after generation. If there is anything we can do that’s going to break that cycle, we want to do it,” said Carline. “It’s what happened in our family. We were able to get an education. No, our parents didn’t have it, but they taught us. They knew the value because they could see what they were missing.”

The couple has also established funds supporting organizations in Waterloo benefiting kids in the community they grew up in, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Cedar Valley and George Washington Carver Middle School.

The legacy of two kids from Waterloo sets an example of generosity rooted in faith, family, and community. “The key is Christ gave his all for me, for us,” said Thomas. “The least we can do is to give a part of us to someone else. If we can be a model and if we can be mentors, we will have fulfilled our job. Whether we inspire people to give financially, pursue education, or be a volunteer, I think that legacy would be successful.”

“I would like to thank Thomas and Carline Phillips for supporting me financially in achieving my degree. Throughout my childhood, I aspired to become a teacher. While at East High School, I started to put those aspirations and dreams into action. I am currently an assistant teacher at Hawkeye Child Care Development Center and plan to attend the University of Northern Iowa to complete my degree. I am grateful for their generosity and hopeful one day I can pay it forward.”

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Tierra Anderson, W. Thomas and Carline Phillips Scholarship Recipient
Waterloo East High School Graduate, Current Hawkeye Community College Student, Assistant Teacher at Hawkeye Child Care Development Center

This story is part of our 2020 Impact Report.