Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
MacPhie, Etta Phillips, 1891-1978
|Etta Phillips MacPhie (1891-1978), W1913, H1976 was elected a Trustee Emeritus in 1974, having served on the Board of Trustees of Tufts University for 19 years. Known to some as "Mrs. Tufts," MacPhie was, according to President Mayer, "the best possible kind of friend that any institution could have."
Born in Bridgton, Maine, on March 28, 1891, Etta Phillips attended Lowell High School before entering Jackson College. As an undergraduate, she was a member of Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. She financed her college education by reading for Professor Edwin Bolles. Her work with this blind faculty member first sparked MacPhie's interest in working with the visually impared. Graduating in 1913, MacPhie taught high school in Lowell for two years. In 1915, she married Elmore I. MacPhie, A1911. The couple had two sons, Rodney and Franklin, A1942.
She continued her work in support of the blind following graduation, helping to found the National Braille Press and organize the Lowell Association for the Blind. She also served on the corporation of the Perkins School for the Blind, and on the executive committee of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind. She was a patron of the arts and other philanthropic endeavors around Boston.
In 1955, following the death of her husband, MacPhie was elected to the Board of Trustees of Tufts University, having the distinction of being the first graduate of Jackson College to hold such a position. She also joinedthe Tufts Alumni Council in 1949 and was recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in 1951 and again in 1972.In 1974, she stepped down from the Board, retaining the title Trustee Emeritus. Two years later, Tufts awarded MacPhie with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. She died on November 16, 1978.
In 1970, when the Tufts student body boycotted the traditional commencement and organized their own ceremony the following day, MacPhie attended the event, talking with students and listening to their antiwar music. She was disappointed by the choice they had made to skip commencement the previous day, but she wanted to share the occasion with them and was welcomed by class members.
In response to MacPhie's continued support of the students of Tufts, the student government president marched into the last Trustees meeting of the year and demanded that she immediately become an honorary member of the student body since she "had more rapport with students than any other member of the community."The representative also demanded that she accept a donation for the formation of a scholarship in her name and a charm for her bracelet.
MacPhie Dinning Hall, built in 1962, was named for Etta and her husband, Elmore MacPhie.
Source: VF, PRS4