About Tippie

Chester A. Phillips

Chester A. PhillipsChester A. Phillips pioneered bank credit theory, and his work has been a standard in textbooks on banking and finance. His books, including Readings in Money and Banking, Banking and the Business Cycle, and Bank Credit, were used widely for decades after their publication. Phillips is particularly known for pioneering the distinction, as Paul Olson says, "between the credit-extending power of an individual bank, and the credit-extending power of the banking system." That is, he was the first to articulate the multiplier effect of the banking systems on the money supply.

One alumnus, Robert Thistlethwaite, Dean Emeritus of Northern Illinois University College of Business, remembered Phillips this way:

The Dean, courtly and dignified, would walk into the well of the auditorium and put his hat on the corner of a small table. He would pause and bow his head momentarily—no one knew what he was doing in that moment. A hush would come over the audience. Then he would raise his eyes to us and begin with something like this—‘As we were discussing last time...’ and off he would go, without a single note or paper.

Howard R. Bowen, a highly regarded economist who would also become one of the university's most dynamic presidents, earned his Ph.D. in economics under Phillips in 1935. Bowen remembered his mentor as short, stocky, and usually outfitted in a specially tailored grey suit and a red tie. "He radiates strength of character and a sense of being in charge," Bowen wrote.

Yet he was gracious and soft-spoken. He was deliberate in his choice of words and liked to use uncommon words. Conferences with him were brief. He was careful to convey compliments when they were deserved, and most visitors emerged from his office with smiles on their lips and with a sense of having been in the presence of an authentic personage. But there was little place in his life for informality or intamacies and scarcely anyone, even his golfing partners, ever addressed him by his given name. I...never overcame a sense of awe in his presence."

Phillips served as the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business president in 1930-31, as an economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago from 1937 to 1942, and as interim president of the university in 1940, between the administrations of Eugene Gilmore and Virgil Hancher. His hobbies, in addition to golf, included automotive design and practical banking. Phillips retired as dean in 1950, at the age of 68, but continued a rather full schedule of reading, writing, and advising for twenty more years. Phillips Hall was dedicated in his name in 1966. He died in Iowa City in 1976, at the age of 94.