Philip J. Walsh said it was his father, then chief of detectives on the New York City police force, who instilled in him the importance of a good education.

"He saw in his own life experience that people who were educated went on to do well . . . to make important contributions," Walsh said. "My father had a high school degree. There were eight children in our family and all of us went to college."

Walsh graduated from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and, later, from the Georgetown University Law Center. Today, Walsh passes another education milestone as he takes his place among the six other members of the Falls Church School Board.

Last month, the Falls Church City Council appointed Walsh and an incumbent, Ellen Gross, to three-year terms on the board. Former School Board chairman Priscilla Reimers announced in July that she would not seek reappointment to the panel.

Walsh, 40, went into private law practice in the Washington area shortly after graduating from law school in 1972. He is a partner at Bromley, Brown & Walsh, a firm of about 15 lawyers that has offices in Washington, Maryland and Virginia. He works in the firm's Falls Church office across from City Hall.

Walsh is a trial lawyer who handles mostly civil litigation. Cases that come across his desk include personal injury and malpractice suits and contract disputes.

"The private practice of law is a very challenging arena," said Walsh, who said he enjoys what he does.

Walsh and his wife Irene, who works in administration at Georgetown University Hospital, have lived in Falls Church for 14 years.

"I think we are fortunate having moved to Falls Church," he said, explaining that he likes the city's "sense of community."

"We knew it had an excellent school system," he added.

Walsh has held membership on the City Employees Review Board and the school system's Family Life and Sex Education Council.

City Council member J. Roger Wollenberg said Walsh has exhibited "genuine interest" in the city's schools.

"He . . . has been very active as a high school parent in doing things with the kids and the schools," Wollenberg said. "We look for people who are really interested."

Vice Mayor Elizabeth A. Blystone said: "Phil had the background and the maturity I was looking for in a School Board member. He clearly understood the difference between policy making and administration."

Walsh says it is particularly important these days to work to ensure the high quality of schools and teaching.

"Our demographics are changing," he said. "We have more latchkey children and a 50 percent divorce rate. The bottom line is our teachers are playing a larger role in the development of our children than they were 20 years ago."

Walsh has four children, all of whom attend the city's schools. Martin, Philip and Christine are in the 12th, 11th and eighth grades at George Mason Junior-Senior High School. Julie, 9, is in the fourth grade at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.

This year, a fifth student is living in the Walsh household: Christian Weiergang, a 16-year-old American Field Service student from Norway, who is attending George Mason.

Walsh said he is a big supporter of the student exchange program.

"It adds so much to the kind of social life and the academic life of the high school," he said. "One of the problems with high school is kids tend to get bored . . . . this {program} has a synergistic effect on the cultural life."

As a new School Board member, Walsh said he is prepared to pay close attention to the issues.

"Philip Walsh doesn't have an agenda that he intends to impose on the School Board," he said.

"I do have a lot of learning to do and I've been reading much," he said.

"I'm challenged."