Monsignor Hugh J. Phillips, 97, a former president of Mount St. Mary's College who was associated with the Maryland Catholic school for more than 80 years, died July 11 at Providence Hospital in Washington.
He had lived for the past three years at Carroll Manor, a home in Washington for retired priests. He had a heart ailment.
Monsignor Phillips was the last priest to be the full-time president of Mount St. Mary's, the second-oldest Catholic college in the country, after Georgetown University. During his tenure, from 1967 to 1971, he was criticized by students who wanted more liberal policies and was censured by the faculty.
Yet few people have done as much for Mount St. Mary's as Monsignor Phillips, who arrived as an orphaned sixth-grade student about 1920. He taught at the college from 1935 to 1967, was the chief librarian and designed the college's new library, which is named in his honor.
"He was the living history of the Mount," said Thomas H. Powell, the current university president, "and probably knew the Mount better than anyone."
During the 1950s, he led an effort to restore the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes, the oldest American replica of the famous Catholic pilgrimage site in France. The grotto and its grounds, which cover 57 acres overlooking the campus in Emmitsburg, in Frederick County, drew 184,000 visitors to Mount St. Mary's last year.
Monsignor Phillips graduated from the college's prep school, received a bachelor's degree in 1931 and a master's degree in education in 1935. He graduated from Mount St. Mary's Seminary and was ordained a priest in 1935. He received a master's degree in library science from Catholic University in 1943.
He was a professor of theology and church history at the Mount, which is known in Catholic circles as the "cradle of bishops" for the number of church leaders it has produced. He taught philosophy, psychology and church history at the old St. Joseph's College, a nearby women's college. From 1937 to 1960, he was on the faculty of Catholic University, where he taught theology, psychology and medical ethics.
In the 1950s, Monsignor Phillips launched an effort to restore the grotto, which had been built in the late 19th century on the site where Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of St. Joseph's College and the first American to be named a saint, often worshiped. He commissioned a 25-foot bronze sculpture of the Virgin Mary, a bell tower and statues representing the stations of the cross. Today, hundreds of people attend daily Masses in the shrine's glass chapel.
During Monsignor Phillips's presidency, Mount St. Mary's expanded its board of trustees to include lay people as well as clergy.
In 1969, he found himself at the center of a student protest that resulted in a three-day boycott of classes. The all-male student body demanded the abolition of dress codes and curfews and wanted permission to have women visit dormitories.
Monsignor Phillips threatened the striking students with expulsion and later was censured by the faculty, which stripped him of some of his administrative authority. Mount St. Mary's became coeducational in 1973 and has had a lay president ever since. The school was designated a university last month.
After he left the presidency in 1971, Monsignor Phillips turned his attention to expanding the library and became the college's official archivist. He was the chaplain of the grotto until 2001, which he considered "a step up" from the college presidency.
Monsignor Phillips was born in Washington and lost his parents at an early age. He said he was drawn to Mount St. Mary's because, as an orphan, he considered the Virgin Mary his actual mother.
He had no immediate survivors.
On his final visit to Mount St. Mary's last fall, Monsignor Phillips insisted on climbing the tall hill above campus to visit his beloved grotto one last time.