Auburn garden named for Susan Phillips
Special to The Standard
Auburn University is naming the formal gardens at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art in honor of the late Susan Phillips, who donated $8 million to the museum through her estate.
The Brewton, Ala., philanthropist was one of several benefactors who were instrumental in efforts in the late 1990s to build the museum in Auburn. However, she died in July 2003 at age 47 after a brief illness, four months before the museum opened.
The bequest increases to $10 million the total of gifts to the museum from Susan Phillips and her family's philanthropic foundation. During the last decade of her life, she and the family foundation donated a rare collection of Audubon prints and other art with a total value of $1 million to AU and established a $1 million endowment for galleries to house the collection in the museum.
In recognition of her support for the museum, the AU Board of Trustees voted on April 22 to name the facility's formal gardens for Susan Phillips and in memory of her son, Matthew Albert Tucker, and her mother, Anne Miller Phillips.
"Susan Phillips was one of a handful of people whose gifts and leadership made it possible for Auburn to establish a museum of fine art that is a source of pride for the entire university family," said interim AU President Ed Richardson. "The university community and future generations of students will benefit greatly from her support for the fine arts at Auburn."
The museum's formal gardens flank the main entrance, providing specially designed outdoor galleries for the display of sculpture.
Allen Phillips said his sister had shown special interest in the gardens during planning for the museum.
Museum Director Michael Panhorst said the gift strengthens the financial position of the museum as it continues enhancing the quality of its art collection and programs.
In addition to the Audubon prints, the museum's permanent collection includes a major collection of Irish Belleek porcelain and 36 paintings and watercolors from the U.S. State Department's historic "Advancing American Art Collection" that Auburn purchased in the late 1940s.
Auburn University is a pre-eminent land-grant and comprehensive research institution with nearly 23,000 students and 6,500 faculty and staff. Ranked among the top 50 public universities nationally, Auburn is Alabama's largest educational institution, offering more than 230 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs.