Like Bread on the Water
Poor, uneducated and living in a series of bad neighborhoods, Phillip Andrews ’04, MSA ‘09, was expelled from fourth grade, so his mother wasn’t arrested for his truancy. Born to “whimsical parents, who often did not make coherent decisions,” life was difficult. Phillip took it upon himself to throw newspapers, work at construction sites and run the streets. Fortunately, he didn’t end up behind bars. Instead, he ended up at UST, which changed his life profoundly. He received a hard-won education, converted to Catholicism, and moved out into the world aiming to be a priest.
God Tapped on Phillip’s Shoulder
But we are ahead of the story. Phillip had an epiphany at 17 years of age. He wanted to change the course of his life, and he decided that he needed to learn to read. In his teenage years, he had some exposure to Judaism that gave him a concept of God and reaching for something better. He dug deep into his faith to find a way out of his predicament.
Phillip did learn to read, took the GED three times to pass it, and went on to community college. Then, left by his mother to fend for himself in a decrepit mobile home, his abusive, alcoholic father out of the picture, he made the conscious decision to recover further and gain self-esteem. At 22, he found mentors to guide him and was learning it all. Still, he struggled and failed several times, trying to grasp math and other academic fundamentals.
He worked installing rain gutters, delivering pizzas and waiting tables. He listened to audiobooks. He never gave up.
Chance Encounters, Changed Lives
Then one fateful day, he drove past UST, and one of his mentors told him it was a good school. He applied and, with a heartfelt admissions essay, was admitted. School was hard. He had to read every lesson four times and spent the afternoons, when he wasn’t working two jobs, at the tutoring center.
One day, he happened to meet Fr. Dennis Andrews, CSB, an associate professor and dean of the School of Education.
“He served as a mentor and he helped me find a way to pay for my education with the Fr. Braden scholarship. He was like a father to me.”
Today, Phillip is married to his wife Diana and has two step-children, one having likewise graduated from UST and the other still in college.
Fr. Andrews passed away at 68 in Toronto in 2010. He impacted many peoples’ lives for the better.
“I am just one changed life,” Phillip said. “I watched him change dozens of lives. For anyone the Lord put in front of him, he did what could be done – he led an extraordinary life.”
Paying it Forward to UST
He credits UST with helping him maneuver through the chaos of life. He has had a varied career - accountant, manager of a medical clinic, and more.
Now Phillip, who will turn 44 in June, wants to pay it forward at UST any way he can, through planned giving. He plans to continue donating to the Fr. Dennis Andrews, CSB, Scholarship Fund in Education and to help with enrollment.
“St. Thomas is an extraordinary institution impacting lives,” he said. “The University is a catalyst for good in the world. Here, I learned a humanitarian understanding of the world and how it works, the value of human dignity.
‘An educated mind is a liberated mind, and a liberated mind creates a liberated life.’
Phillip also wants to help his employees. He is earning a graduate certificate in Construction Management from the University of Texas to help out-of-work employees find new jobs. He owns a business, Sugar Land Rain Gutters, and after many long months during a COVID slump, he wants to expand the business, creating more jobs.
He spends time mentoring others. Phillip knows the desperation of some mentees. “Some people are desperate for a little encouragement, to know they can do much more with their lives. I can give them that.”
Like Bread on the Water
Like bread on the water, Phillip is sharing goodness and serving as a mentor to others just like he experienced with Fr. Andrews.