The Phillips Family: A Legacy of Philanthropy Honored by Merdinian
SHERMAN OAKS, CALIF. – The C. & E. Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School will honor the Phillips family as the recipients of the prestigious Legacy of Philanthropy Award. This recognition is a testament to the family's enduring support and significant contributions to the school's growth and success and the continuous positive impact on the Armenian evangelical community globally. The award will be presented at the school’s Gala on Saturday, February 10, 2024, at 6:00 p.m. at the Jonathan Club, located at 545 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90071.
Early Days of Merdinian
George Phillips Sr., the patriarch of the Phillips family, a distinguished lawyer, Korean War Veteran, and an officer and board member of the Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA), played a pivotal role in establishing C. & E. Merdinian Armenian Evangelical School. As a founding member, he secured Elise Merdinian's trust and played a crucial role in the school's expansion, including acquiring adjoining properties during his years on the Board of Directors. In his professional life, Mr. Phillips Sr. established Phillips Law Partners, LLP, focusing on real estate and estate/income tax planning for high-net-worth individuals. Since the school's inception, he has rendered voluntary legal services and obtained numerous generous donations from foundations and charitable trusts in which he is involved. His wife, Suzie Phillips, one of the founders of the School’s Women's Auxiliary, exemplified a commitment to volunteerism and community engagement. Her leadership in hosting the first Auxiliary meeting 25 years ago laid the foundation for a robust and active community.
Both George Sr. and Suzie were descendants of genocide survivors. George Sr.'s father, Dickran Phillipbosian, stood as the sole survivor among his family members as they tragically perished under undocumented and unknown circumstances during the Armenian Genocide. His last name was shortened to Phillips, like so many immigrants at the time, before his grandfather settled in Los Angeles in 1920. Suzie's father, Rev. Nerses Sarian, documented his survival journey in the book "I Shall Not Die: A Tribute to the Faithfulness of God." The narrative recounts how he managed to survive and later assume the role of Pastor to the diaspora in Syria, where he dedicated 30 years of service to the Church. Eventually, he settled in Los Angeles, marking a poignant chapter in the family's history.
George Sr. and Suzie were deeply influenced by the resilience and strength demonstrated by their respective parents, who had survived the horrors of genocide. The tales of survival and the enduring spirit of their ancestors instilled in them a profound appreciation for life, their Armenian identity, the church and education, which in America was the great equalizer. Driven by the profound impact of their family histories, George Sr. and Suzie were determined to create a legacy that celebrated the importance of education and community service. As they embarked on their journey of building a family, they consciously instilled these values in their sons, Albert, Gary, and George Jr.
The Next Generation
The eldest among the Phillips brothers is Dr. Albert J. Phillips, currently holding the position of Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the USC Keck School of Medicine, from which he graduated. Before his esteemed role at the university, Dr. Phillips enjoyed a successful career in his private practice in Santa Monica. In addition to his professional achievements, Dr. Phillips, alongside his wife, Sue, has been actively engaged in philanthropic endeavors. For the past 15 years, they have co-led annual medical mission trips to Armenia, providing invaluable healthcare services such as free health screenings and medication to over 2,000 villagers through the AMAA. Their commitment extends beyond physical health and contributes to spiritual well-being. Dr. Phillips has demonstrated leadership in the community by serving on and chairing many of the boards governing the United Armenian Congregational Church (UACC). Sue Nahigian-Phillips, his wife, has also made significant contributions, running the Oasis Bible Study, participating as a speaker at Camp Arev, organizing women's retreats, and even teaching at Merdinian. Together, their dedication to medical outreach and community service reflects a holistic commitment to improving the lives of those they touch.
The middle brother, Gary Phillips, graduated from USC in 1980 with a degree in Business Admin. and earned his CPA license in Deloitte's tax and audit departments. He then attended and graduated from USC Law School in 1985 and joined his father’s law firm shortly thereafter. He is currently Vice President of the AMAA and has served 15 years on the board of directors. Gary has participated in four delegation trips to Armenia, gaining firsthand insight into the impactful initiatives of the AMAA. These experiences fueled his ongoing commitment to community service. Gary’s contributions to the educational landscape include service as a member of the Board of Trustees at Haigazian University, a position once held by his father, and Merdinian’s board. Gary also served multiple terms as Moderator and Trustees’ Chair for UACC. Arsine (Bedrossian) Phillips, Gary's wife, is equally engaged in community service. She is currently on the Board of Trustees at UACC and on the central Board of the Armenian International Women's Association (AIWA). Arsine's dedication to AMAA is evident through her six-year tenure on the board of directors and her two-decade co-chairmanship of the AMAA child and orphan care committee. She is also a member of the Board of Councilors of USC Gould School of Law. Their son, Richard Phillips, attended preschool at Merdinian.
The youngest in the family, George Phillips, Jr. graduated from USC with a degree in Business Administration in 1985 and began working in public accounting before returning to school and graduating from USC Law School in 1991 in the top 2% of his class and with Order of the Coif honors. He began his career at O'Melveny & Myers, and after 6 years joined his father and brother at Phillips Law Partners, LLP. His practice includes estate planning, trust and probate administration and litigation, real estate, and general business law and litigation. He is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), providing a robust foundation that he seamlessly applies in his intricate trust and business law practice. He especially enjoys helping clients with intergenerational tax planning that includes a philanthropic aspect and serves as Trustee of various charitable trusts devoted to Christian and Armenian causes. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of Camp Arev and over the last 5 years helped raise millions of dollars while overseeing major construction projects upgrading and expanding the Camp’s facilities, staff and ministries. As an active member of UACC, he has served as Chairman of the Church’s Board of Deacons, Board of Trustees and Board of Christian Education. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Merdinian School and is currently Vice Chairman of the Board and Chairman of the Facilities Committee overseeing execution of the recent improvements at the school. His wife, Dina Tilkian-Phillips, with roots tracing back to Genocide survivors in the heroic region of Musa Ler (Dagh), served as the Merdinian Women’s Auxiliary's inaugural Chairperson and briefly taught at Merdinian. She has been very active at UACC, is currently serving as the Clerk of the Council, and has also served as a Sunday School teacher, youth leader and member of the Board of Deacons. Their daughters Taylor Phillips and Lindsay Phillips also briefly attended Merdinian.
The Phillips family's core values resonate with Merdinian's foundational principles, which strongly emphasize community service, respect for others, love for the homeland, love for Christian beliefs, and a commitment to giving back to the community. United in their shared commitment to these ideals, the family is honored to contribute to the institution to foster an environment where students can receive bilingual and faith-based education and grow into compassionate, respectful individuals dedicated to positively contributing to their community, church, homeland, and society. Notably, several members of the Phillips family have attended Merdinian preschool, and they emphasize the school's distinction through its unique character-building approach, especially because they participate in chapel and religion classes. Their fervent hope extends beyond the present, aspiring to witness the school's evolution into a high school, shaping future generations.
"Their unwavering commitment to the school's mission and values has not only illuminated the path for present and future students but also exemplifies the true spirit of service, faith, and community,” said Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Nerses Aposhian. “Growing up in the Armenian evangelical community, I have firsthand experienced their legacy of philanthropy and dedication to the growth and expansion of Merdinian and the Armenian community at large to shape a brighter future for all, and we invite the community to join us on February 10 at our Gala to honor their legacy," he continued
To purchase tickets and learn about sponsorship opportunities, visit the Merdinian GALA website.