Ranger College administrators awarded Brownwood veteran Jeffery Allen Phillips, who graduated with honors Friday night, with a special recognition for inspiring fellow students and staff members.

Ranger College President William Campion called Phillips a personal hero while honoring Phillips in front of hundreds inside the Coggin Avenue Baptist Church.

“We had a group of faculty I overheard in conversation and they were talking about one of our students who would be graduating. I listened. I may not have many talents, but this is one of them and it has really served me well,” Campion said. “I was really taken by what these faculty members were saying … After I learned the whole story, I wanted to introduce you to one of my real heroes. We didn’t have to go to some far away place or Washington, D.C. to find this person. This person was right here in Brownwood.”

Campion invited Phillips to the stage minutes after Phillips gave his Nightingale Pledge, the traditional oath given to officially induct students into the field of nursing. Phillips was also a member of the Phi Kappa Theta Honor Society, quite an accomplishment for someone who doubted they would ever complete a college program of any sort. 

After graduating  high school in 1998 with plans to play football at Tarleton State University, Phillips sought a higher calling and joined the military — personally witnessing events directly leading to U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

“I quickly realized college was not for me. Without consulting my parents I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps infantry,” said Phillips through a statement read by Campion to the crowd of hundreds. “… During my time in service I saw many places and things. As a young lance corporal, I was with the first division to respond to the terrorist attack of the USS Cole.”

During his active military service Phillips made multiple deployments to Iraq and after exiting the Marines stated he found himself without purpose. He worked for the U.S. Postal Service, worked the oil fields and after being laid off found purpose when he saw a Ranger College advertisement. Phillips found a job at The Home Depot, which provided funds for his family while he attended school full time. He later received employment from Brownwood Regional Medical Center and thanked his supervisors for working with his schedule while he finished his associate’s degree.

“If I can do it, then you can do it. Set your goal high,” Phillips stated. “… I thank God, my beautiful wife Melissa, my daughter Gwen and son Ivan, my parents, close friends and fellow employees who stood beside me through it all. I wouldn’t be here without you. I don’t know if I made this quote up or I read it, but find joy through your journey.”