Leaving Everything Better Than He Found It: A Tribute to Dr. Phil Jos

After three decades of exceptional teaching, research, and service, Dr. Phil Jos will retire from the College of Charleston. In honor of the impact Dr. Jos has created, Dr. John Creed, a beloved friend and colleague, reflects on the significant lessons, commitment and dedication experienced by those around him.

Phil and I have been friends for 35 years – colleagues in Political Science for more than 25 years – and over that span, he has taught me a great deal, just as he has guided the many students he has encountered throughout his time at the College of Charleston. One of the first lessons I learned from Phil was that if you are going to study politics, you need to care about politics and engage in politics – sitting on the sidelines watching others is not enough if you are intent on fully appreciating what politics is all about.

People often mention Phil’s sense of justice and his commitment to fairness. There are reasons why Phil has taught ethics for so many years; nobody is committed to assuring that someone’s ideas are seriously considered and that individuals get their deserved hearing than Phil. He always stepped up when a need emerged – and often his willingness to come forward compelled him to leave his comfort zones, to grow and change as a person. He didn’t intend to be MPA director, but he directed the program three times; he did not plan on being department chair, but he served for four years. As anyone knows who has ever inherited something from Phil, when he hands you the shoes, you can instantly run because the shoes fit your feet. This is because Phil has made sure they fit – and he has left everything better than he found it. In the end, service has never been about him – it is about the program, the department, his colleagues and particularly the students, always the students.

Phil is one of the only people I know who does not wait until someone is gone to express how important they are to him. He makes sure that people know how vital and valued they are when it matters –  through gestures, large and small, day in and day out. In a world that is increasingly cruel, thoughtless and inhumane, his extraordinary compassion and caring nature becomes all the more valuable to those around him and it sets a powerful example for others to learn from.

Phil has long believed it is an honor teach students something about the world and how to make their way in it; it is a privilege to be able to enter students’ lives and be trusted to contribute to their well-being and their futures. No one has been truer to that canon. No one has been a more dedicated and committed teacher, more determined to help students see and realize their own potentials and capabilities; a more careful, patient and caring mentor and guide; and more enthusiastic, a supporter and cheerleader of their accomplishments. The College will be a lesser place next year without Phil Jos – because he has given so much more to it in all the years he has been here. And his colleagues, his friends, and most particularly his students are immensely better off for the contributions he has made.

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