Valerie Louise Phillips, KUT and KUTX's major gifts officer and a popular personality in Austin’s philanthropic and political circles, died Tuesday, after a three-year battle with breast cancer.
As leadership circle manager at KUT, Valerie dealt daily with Austin’s best, brightest and most powerful -- always with a touch of joy, efficiency and enthusiasm.
Originally from Fort Worth, she was a talented writer, arts and literature lover and noted for a keen and quick wit.
She was a 1978 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. At UT, Valerie roomed with the late philanthropist Robin Shivers, and was close to Robin and her husband, Bud Shivers, for four decades. Valerie was instrumental in the KUT and KUTX green room being named the "Robin Ratliff Shivers Artist Green Room" .
After graduation she joined the consulting and political polling firm, George Shipley & Associates.
Valerie and her partner, Bob Mann, moved to Washington, D.C. in 1978, where she spent two decades as a Capitol Hill staffer, political adviser and fundraiser.
She began her D.C. career with Congressman Marvin Leath in 1978, then joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as associate political director before becoming membership director for the Highway Users Federation.
She and Bob, who had become press secretary to U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, were frequent figures at White House events and as guests at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis.
She formed Valerie Phillips & Associates Consulting in 1987, and was later named deputy finance director for presidential candidate Al Gore, traveling the nation with Gore for a year.
Before that, she had been a State Department reporter for a Virginia TV station, working alongside fellow Fort Worthian Bob Schieffer of CBS.
She also assumed a unique role -- “adopted mother” -- to Mann’s then-teenage daughter, now Liz Stewart, wife of GSD&M CEO Duff Stewart. The Stewart children, Adam, Noah and Grace, though not formally related to Valerie, often competed to sit next to her at family gatherings.
Valerie returned to Texas in the 1990s, when she revisited political fundraising -- for John Sharp in his race for lieutenant governor and Richard Raymond’s land commissioner race.
She then joined Central Texas Clean Cities, coordinating alternative energy programs, before joining the Texas Civil Rights Project, and then KUT.
Her five years at KUT, were, she often said, “the most exciting and satisfying years of my professional life.”
In addition to Bob Mann and the Stewart family, survivors include sisters Beth Phillips Engelhardt and Mary Phillips-Kalvitz of Fort Worth; cousin Mary Phillips and partner Donna Thomas of Austin; Bob’s daughter, Amy Mann of Longmont, Colo.; and family pooch, Boots.
The family says they're grateful for the many friends who visited and supported Valerie during her illness, including Val’s “adopted sister” pal, Luniece Obst, husband Michael Schless, and neighbor Kevin Moomaw, who practically “took up residence” at Valerie and Bob's North Austin home for many months.
They also offer thanks to the staff of Hospice Austin, who helped care for Valerie for many months.
A memorial service will be held Monday, Jan. 13 at St. John's United Methodist Church at 3pm.