After battling pulmonary hypertension for more than a year, Phil Hastings died on June 21, 2008, in Cleveland, Ohio. Agnes, his beloved wife of forty- nine years, and their four sons, Jeffrey, David, Christopher and Thomas were with him during his last hours. They’ve reported that he removed his oxygen mask to recite the last verse of a favorite Robert Frost poem, and again to complete the final verse of a hymn when Agnes forgot the words.
Phil entered Amherst with the Class of 1956 but left after freshman year to spend fifteen months working on an ore boat on the Great Lakes to earn money so he could return to Amherst.
Phil was a member of Alpha Delta Phi; he majored in religion, played football, and excelled in baseball and basketball. He co-captained with Dick Anderson the basketball team that was ranked seventeenth in the nation on defense and made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time. At graduation Phil was awarded the Obed Finch Slingerland Memorial Prize, “given to members of the senior class who have shown by their own determination and accomplishment the greatest appreciation of and desire for a college education”. After graduation in 1957, he spent the next three years serving as an officer in the Navy.
When Phil was discharged he taught for three years, and then served nineteen years as principal of an elementary school in Brecksville (OH), followed by two years at Hilton Academy. During that time he earned a masters degree in education at Case-Western Reserve as well as a Superintendent’s Certificate. After retiring from the school system, Phil worked for Computer Site for ten years, and then four years for the Regina Health Center in Richfield, Ohio, driving nuns on their daily errands.
Outside of work, and in retirement, he avidly played softball and golf, read voraciously, and spent lots of time with his seven grandchildren.
Each year since 1997, Phil traveled to White Oak Pond in New Hampshire to spend a long fall weekend at the summer home of Kif (Anne) Knight with Amherst classmates, including Dick Anderson, Pierce Gardner, Bruce Hanson, Howie Rotner, Stu Tuller, and Stephen Yale, and here are a few of our thoughts:
“One time we boxed at Amherst and Phil quickly knocked me down---but he didn’t even remember that happening when I mentioned it to him a few years ago. It illustrated to me what a natural and gifted athlete Phil was and how modestly he viewed his abilities and talents.”
“When I think of Phil as a basketball player I remember that he wasn't particularly fast, or tall and did not have that accurate a shot. Yet, he was very quick, a fierce competitor, and he had great court sense; he made everyone around him better, and that is who he was throughout his whole life.”
“The thing that sticks out most in my mind about Phil was his ability to be kind, thoughtful and generous toward others, but at the same time, and always in a self-deprecating and humorous way, to be brutally honest in his assessments of people. Nobody ever got away with anything with Phil. At White Oak Pond on the golf course when I would hit a bad shot and then try to ‘explain’ it as the kind of shot I always had trouble with, Phil would just glance over at me and say with a smile, ‘No excuses. That was just a lousy shot - suck it up and play your ball.’”
“Phil was a model of humility, integrity, and honesty, all things our world needs badly these days but which are in short supply.”
“During this past year when I would call Phil, he would skim over the summary of his ‘wounds,’ and before I knew it he would have me talking about my world, my feelings, and what I hoped As he was dying, I found that talking to Phil was like being hugged. What a friend. What a man.”
Our memories will keep Phil with us always.
-Kif Knight '57 and Bruce Hanson '57