Family Ties | The Arthur & Shirley Phillips Family

Family Ties | The Arthur & Shirley Phillips Family

Monday, April 26, 2021

It’s common for married couples to have met in college, but the Phillips family has taken it several steps further. Not one, not two, but three generations of the Phillips family met their future spouse while attending Midland.

“Lots of people do meet their significant other through college, but three generations is unique,” Lee Phillips said. “You have to say God had a hand in that somewhere.”

The bond between the Phillips family and Midland dates back more than 70 years when Lee’s father, Arthur, enrolled at Midland in the late 1940s. After serving in World War II, Arthur arrived on the Midland campus and was a member of the football team. It was there he would meet his future wife, Shirley Snyder.

“Their first date was a blind date and my mom really didn’t want much to do with him,” Lee joked. “Her thought was “why would I go out with some old football player.’ But over time, they struck up an interest in each other, started dating, and got married. Dad graduated and my mom left school after a couple of years to start a family. Dad coached and taught for many years, mostly in Cheyenne, Wyoming, which is where they lived until they both passed away.”

Fast forward to the 1970s when Lee found his way to Midland. He followed in his dad’s footsteps as a member of the Warrior football team and was also involved in Kappa Phi. It was through a Kappa Phi event where he would meet his future wife, Brenda (Stiles).

“We had a fraternity/sorority outing and went roller skating,” Lee said. “Brenda wasn’t in a sorority, but one of her friends in the nursing program was, so she came along. Both our parents grew up about 40 miles apart in southeast Nebraska, so we sort of had an instant connection and it always gave us something to talk about. We began dating and everybody who hung out with us started telling me I should marry her, mainly because they wanted to hang out with her.”

Brenda’s long career in nursing was launched at Midland as she was in the first class of nurses at Midland in the 1970s. It sparked a 43-year career in the Methodist Health System, a career that will come to a conclusion when she retires this year.

After graduation, Lee began a long career at Mutual of Omaha. He and Brenda were married in 1984 and had four children.

Despite their strong ties, none of their first three children decided to attend Midland. But the tradition was kept alive when their daughter Lara committed to Midland.

“I remember taking the tour with my mom and it sparked a lot of memories for her,” Lara said. “I wanted to follow in her footsteps as a nurse and Midland offered extracurricular activities other nursing schools didn’t offer. It gave me the full college experience.”

She would not only follow in her mothers footsteps in the nursing field, but also in the family footsteps of finding a spouse on campus.

Matt Marietta was an assistant football coach at Montana Tech. Through coaching connections, Matt found his way to Midland where he worked as a graduate assistant. “We actually met at a Midland tailgate at the College World Series,” Lara said. 

Lara graduated in 2016 and began her nursing career at Salina Regional Health. Two years later, she would join her mother at Methodist, working in the cardiac unit together. Lara and Matt were married in 2017 and have two children of their own.

The connections to Midland run deep for the family. Lee’s cousins, Steve and Craig Schneider, were members of the football team as both players and coaches at Midland. Uncles and cousins of the Phillips family have also spent time as students at Midland.

Lee and Brenda have made several trips back to campus over the years and have noticed how much the campus has evolved since their time here in the 1970s. “I remember how we used to have concerts and dance-a-thons in the Student Union, but that all looks so different now,” Brenda said. 

Lee’s father was one of the first classes of students to live in Men’s Memorial Hall, which was replaced by Miller Hall in 2020. “It’s crazy to see some of the changes, but they are nice changes,” Lee said. “Some are sad to see, but overall a lot of great changes have occurred. 

The physical appearance of campus has undergone a great deal of change over the years, but one constant that remains is the connections that have been built at Midland for the Phillips family.

“One of the best parts of going to Midland is the connections you make,” Lara said. “Some of my best friends are people I met at Midland.”