"Just Happy to Have Helped"
For some people, humility doesn’t require effort; it’s simply a way of life. Neil and Barbara Phillips are those kinds of people.
Neil grew up in the town of Pleasant Hill outside of San Francisco. Hired straight out of college into the fledgling industry of cable television, Neil was transferred to Southern California, where he met his wife, Barbara.
The couple put down roots in Lake Forest (then El Toro) and, in 1976, Neil started his own telecommunications electronics business. After expanding it into a full-service telecommunications powerhouse, Neil made the decision in 2010 to sell his business and retire.
Neil recalls a friend inviting him to the Audi Mission Viejo, Volvo Mission Viejo Golf Classic. He so thoroughly enjoyed the event that he later joined the golf committee. Meanwhile, the Phillips’ relationship with the hospital was evolving.
“We’ve all been patients way too many times,” laughs Neil, rattling off a long list of injuries and illnesses that Mission Hospital has treated for them. But, in 2010, Neil experienced a medical event that would alter the course of his life — and his relationship to the hospital.
“I had a heart attack at home, alone, while watching TV after playing golf all day on Valentine’s Day,” says Neil matter-of-factly. As Mission Hospital cardiologist Dr. Richard Jacob reviewed the results from the cath lab, he informed Neil that he had multiple blocked arteries; Neil would need a six-way bypass.
Since then, Neil and Barbara have made Mission Hospital a priority in their personal philanthropy. “After I sold my business, I set up trust funds for our small family,” says Neil. “And we decided that the money left over should go to a cause: Mission Hospital. But then we started wondering, why should they have to wait until we die? Give them half of it now!” The couple designated their gift to the Leonard Cancer Institute. Because of their exceptional generosity, the Institute’s Diagnostic Imaging Center has been named in their honor.
Neil notes that he was motivated to give to the Leonard Cancer Institute in part because his mother passed away from cancer.
Neil is grateful that south Orange County now has a leading-edge cancer treatment facility of its own — one that doesn’t require an hours-long trip to Los Angeles. “I hope they keep evolving, doing great work and expanding,” he says.
As for his own role in helping to turn that opportunity into a reality, Neil demurs. “Oh, it was the brainchild of some early pioneers of that cause, and they should get the credit. I just sailed along behind them,” he says with characteristic humility. “I’m just happy to have helped.”
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