The Last Word: Tim Phillips '97

Tim Phillips
November 7, 2017

Tim Phillips '97 is general counsel and assistant secretary of The American Cancer Society Inc. and the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network Inc.

Describe your job and what you like about it.

Well, I’ve heard it said it’s not a job if you enjoy what you do. And what I do is serve and lead. I serve the mission of my organization to fight relentlessly to defeat a disease whose time has come, while we celebrate the lives of those in the battle and honor the lives of those who gave their full measure in the effort. I am privileged to lead a team of dedicated legal and compliance professionals who devote their time and talents to advising our mission partners on a full range of issues. And what I love most about the work is that no day is like any other. I serve in an environment where the landscape constantly changes. 

Do you have a morning routine? (And a plan to beat that famous Atlanta traffic?)

The first thing I do in the morning is pray and meditate with Scripture. Following that exercise, most mornings I will visit the gym or practice yoga — or both. My “plan” to beat the infamous Atlanta traffic is to accept it. The Serenity Prayer helps!

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

I would say the person who has had the most lasting influence on my life is Abbot Aidan Shea, OSB, who taught me Latin and French, and served as my guidance counselor in high school. He officiated my confirmation in the Catholic faith, officiated my marriage and baptized both my sons. He has been a friend and spiritual mentor for most of my adult life.

What is the most indispensable piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Proverbs 3:5-6. [“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”] I have tested these words often and never have they failed.

Is there a memento you keep, in your office or at home, that inspires you?

I keep the Navy SEAL Ethos posted on the wall above my computer monitor. I also keep a copy of The Serenity Prayer on my credenza.

What did you enjoy most about your law school days?

I would say what I enjoyed most was the camaraderie we shared as classmates and schoolmates. I believe what makes the Virginia Law experience so unique is the combination of a shared desire for the pursuit of academic excellence and a shared commitment to servant leadership, encased in an environment of mutual respect. 

If your life as general counsel were made into a movie, what would the title be?

“Mission Possible.”

Can cancer be defeated?

Yes, we can! 

You have the last word, what do you want to say?

To the Virginia Law community, I say, lead. Lead by example. Lead with conviction and fortitude. I believe now more than ever our society beckons for servant- leaders who embody civility and courage of conviction. And of course a sense of humor! The Virginia Law community is a breeding ground for these elements. Please continue our tradition of servant leadership.

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