Indiana State University Newsroom

Couple's love of music honored through $500,000 gift to ISU

April 8, 2021

For Brian and Bettie Phillips of Wilmington, Delaware, music provided an opportunity to explore the world when they weren't able to physically travel. Although they appreciated live performances, in retirement they often enjoyed classical music from the comfort of their living room, relishing in the poetic peace of the sound. 

The joy that music brought to them will now be spread to others. A $500,000 gift from their estate has established the Dr. Brian R. Phillips and Bettie Neckar Phillips Endowed Music Scholarship for students pursuing degrees in music from Indiana State University.

“The generosity of Brian and Bettie Phillips will make an indelible mark at Indiana State University," ISU President Deborah J. Curtis said. "We are proud that their passion for music will endure through our students in the School of Music.”

Said Cathy Cook, '71 GR '75, the niece of Brian and Bettie Phillips: "Brian and Bettie were passionate about education in itself. I think their impact will be to assist someone in going to college without being in so much debt when they graduate." 

Christopher Olsen, ISU’s Interim Provost, said he’s grateful for the gift.

"Although Brian and Bettie Phillips were not musicians themselves, they understood the difference music can make in someone's life,” Olsen said. “Their generous gift will make a huge impact and will allow aspiring musicians to bring the joy of music to others."

The scholarship is a continuation of Brian and Bettie Phillips' long connection to ISU and to Terre Haute.  Born in 1922, Bettie Neckar Phillips grew up in Terre Haute. Her father owned the Harley-Davidson store in downtown Terre Haute. 

Bettie attended Indiana State for a year before attending secretarial school. Her brothers, Herman (Jay) Neckar ‘49 and James “Bud” Neckar ’42, and her nieces, Cathy Cook, ’71 GR ’75 and Linda Cook Paige ’68, all graduated from ISU.

"My aunt just had a very passionate love for Terre Haute and Indiana State," Cook said. "She wanted to leave something there where she grew up and loved."

Bettie was an executive secretary at DuPont, where she met Brian Phillips.  Brian grew up in Scotland and earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Edinburgh.

Married for 50 years until her passing in 2017, Brian and Bettie Phillips complemented each other perfectly. While Bettie, the outgoing socialite, continued playing with her bridge group even into her eighties, the more reserved Brian preferred to read. He insisted on wearing an Oxford-cloth long sleeve shirt and tie every day — even after he was moved into an assisted living facility.  Together, the couple passionately supported the communities they loved.

"I think it just honors their life together to continue to give and to donate," Cook said. "They were always donating to other causes, and I think that was just part of what they did. I wasn't surprised that [giving to Indiana State] was what they wanted to do."

"This scholarship is a true testament to Brian and Bettie's legacy," said Ken Menefee, Executive Director of Planned and Principal Gifts. "Their love — for their community, for each other, and for Indiana State — was evident, and enabling students to pursue one of their biggest joys is a fitting honor to them."

Photo of Brian and Bettie Phillips