René F. Phillips, OFM
1930 – 2013
Fr. René Phillips, OFM, was born May 23, 1930 in Buffalo, N.Y. He graduated in 1948 from Our Lady of Victory Academy in Lackawanna, N.Y., and attended Buffalo’s Little Seminary of St. Joseph for the first two years of college. He discerned a vocation to Franciscan life with the help of Fr. Claude Kean, OFM, then principal of Bishop Timon High School, and entered the Order at St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J., in 1950. Fr. René was a member of the largest class of novices in the Province’s history — 62 men. He professed first vows one year later, made his solemn profession in 1955 and was ordained in 1956.
Upon completing theological studies in 1957, Fr. René spent a pastoral internship year at St. Anthony Shrine, Boston. His first assignment, in 1958, brought him back to South Buffalo, where he taught Latin at Bishop Timon High School. Fr. René spent the next 13 years there, six as principal of the Timon Annex. In 1964, he earned a master’s degree in Latin from St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y.
In the late 1960s, he began studying for a master’s degree in education to obtain a license to practice as a clinician and diagnostician for reading disorders. His skill at and love for this work led to his being offered a teaching fellowship from Boston University in 1971 and he obtained his doctorate in education there in 1973.
He then went to Nazareth College, Rochester, N.Y., to lead their reading center. As associate professor of education, his unique specialization led to Nazareth’s developing a graduate concentration in that area. Fr. René also developed a reading center that offered services to the local community. He made practical contributions to his field, publishing A Directory for Secondary Reading Teachers: A Practical Guide for Effective Reading Instruction (1983) and an Encyclopedic Guide for Professionals in Elementary Education (1986).
After 17 years at Nazareth College, he retired to his family’s cottage in Silver Creek, N.Y. In 1993, he formally resigned his position at Nazareth, which awarded him the rank of professor emeritus.
He died April 15, 2013 in Angola, N.Y. Fr. René was 82 years old, a professed friar for 61 years and a priest for 56 years.