Phil spent most of his life involved with electro-mechanical devices in some way or another. He grew up in Congo in central Africa as the child of missionary parents. He learned very early from his dad the basics of motors, engines, switches, controls, tools, troubleshooting and wiring. He always had readily available junk parts to play with. He built his first crystal radio at age 7, and ran the 100+ foot long-wire antenna himself from his bedroom window to an empty chicken coop. In high school, he specialized in radio, stereo receiver, and cassette machine repair. These skills were always in high demand among his schoolmates. A bachelor’s degree in chemistry went almost unused as he focused his emphasis on computer hardware and software, and after a short stint renovating turn-of-the-century row houses in Washington, DC, he settled into the newly emerging field of computer networking. He spent 30 years in IT, first building and servicing PCs, then later network servers, firewalls, and routers, and spent many years doing complex system migrations and upgrades and troubleshooting. He continues to have a few select IT consulting contracts. As IT services have now transitioned to hands-off/cloud-based systems, he is finding the tangible work of building, repairing, and troubleshooting pipe organ electrical systems a pleasant return to that interactive and embodied work that first got him hooked on computer technology several decades earlier.
Phil and his family moved to Champaign in 2007 so that his spouse could take positions in the University of Illinois School of Social Work and College of Medicine. They have been married for 36 years and have two adult children.