PLU benefactor dies
A pioneering health care professional, philanthropist and devout and loving family member, Karen Hille Phillips passed away peacefully Sept. 13, 2010. Karen was born June 6, 1932 to Emil Otto Hille and Laura (Sandbrink) Hille. She was baptized and confirmed at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Ritzville and was active in the church as a Sunday School teacher, a choir member and in the Luther League Program for youth.
Karen graduated from Ritzville High School in 1950. In 1955 she graduated in nursing from Pacific Lutheran College (now PLU) and Emanuel Hospital in Portland.
After college graduation Karen served as a nurse in her hometown. She then worked at Swedish Hospital in Seattle before helping to open the new University of Washington Medical Center in 1959. She was its first nurse and worked there for 30 years in clinical nursing and as head of the outpatient clinics for heart, cancer, Alzheimer’s and AIDS patients.
After retirement, Karen moved back to the family farm for a brief period of time. She then married Dr. James W. Phillips on Jan. 6, 1996. They lived on Mercer Island.
Following her husband’s death, Karen began a remarkable, magnanimous and personal journey as a philanthropist. She served as a member of the Board of Regents at Pacific Lutheran University from 2000 to 2009 and during that time became the university’s greatest single benefactor ever. She supported student scholarships, capital improvements and the endowment with gifts totaling almost $10 million. She said her gifts were intended to help educate students for lives of service.