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In Memoriam: Remembering Donald Phelps (1929-2003): Community College Leader

In Memoriam: Remembering Donald Phelps (1929-2003): Community College Leader


Dr. Donald G. Phelps, W.K. Kellogg Regents Professor in Community College Leadership at the University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education, died in Austin, on July 5, after a brief illness.

Phelps was the first African American to serve as chancellor of both the Seattle and the Los Angeles community college districts. As chancellor of the Los Angeles District, Phelps led the nation’s most diverse two-year college system, which included nine colleges with an enrollment of more than 150,000 students — speaking more than 45 languages, and including the largest number of African American and Hispanic students of any collegiate institution in the United States. Phelps often said that walking across the campus of Los Angeles City College was similar to walking across the United Nations.
Among his many honors, two best reflect the accomplishments of his personal and professional lives. In 1998 Phelps received the Distinguished Leadership Award from the American Association of Community Colleges, the highest recognition given to anyone in the community-college arena. That same year, he received the National Leadership Award from the National Council of Black American Affairs.
For the past seven years, Phelps served on the Men’s Athletics Council at the University of Texas, most recently serving as chairman, a position in which he served as an adviser to UT’s president on intercollegiate athletic matters. Before that, he had served for two years as chairman of UT’s Department of Educational Administration. Phelps also worked in top leadership positions in federal and county governments. As the director of executive administration for King County, he was responsible for the management of all branches of county government in Seattle; as a director in the U.S. Department of Health Education and Welfare, he authored the first report to the U.S. Congress on alcohol abuse in the United States.
Phelps was born in Seattle on July 22, 1929, one of three children to Donald S. and Louise Gayton Phelps. He is survived by his wife, Pamela; his children, Richard N., Michael K., and Dawn S. Phelps; his grandchildren, Nichole, Damon, ­Dominique, Marcel and ­Deshawn Phelps; and his great-grandchildren, Brenda Jackson and Damoni Phelps.

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