Four Eastern Illinois University alumni who found great success in four different careers have been named recipients of honorary degrees at their alma mater.
The EIU Board of Trustees voted Friday to honor newspaper publisher Patrick Coburn, actor William Phipps, financial services expert Jeffrey G. Scott and cable telecommunications industry leader Charles Jacobs Younger.
Honorary degrees are awarded by the board to those who have achieved records of major distinction at the state or national level in such areas as education, public service, research, humanities, business or the professions, or to those who have made an especially outstanding and significant contribution to the university or higher education.
The honorary degrees are typically awarded to recipients during EIU commencement ceremonies.
Patrick Coburn, Springfield
Coburn has enjoyed a successful journalism career since leaving EIU in 1965. He was hired by the State Journal-Register in 1966, and he worked as a reporter, copy editor, city editor and managing editor before being named publisher, a post he has held since 1997. He also serves as vice president of the Copley Press Inc., which last year donated $1 million in Coburn’s name to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.
Coburn has held many leadership positions in newspaper industry organizations. In 2003, he was named a master editor and inducted into the Journalism Hall of Fame at Southern Illinois University, and he received The Associated Press’s Lincoln League of Journalists Award in 2001.
Coburn has been a great contributor to the journalism program at EIU, providing scholarship assistance, hiring a great number of graduates and even sending his employees to help solve computer and press problems at The Daily Eastern News at no expense to the university. Coburn was inducted into the Eastern Journalism Department Alumnus Hall of Fame in 2003.
Outside of journalism, Coburn has had a great impact on the Springfield community, perhaps most notably through the “Friend in Deed” program, which he expanded from a newsroom effort to a community-wide program that has provided millions of dollars in food, clothing and gifts to the needy during the holiday season.
William Edward Phipps, Malibu, Calif.
When William Edwards Couch came to Eastern in 1939, he was elected freshman class president and served as a cheerleader before cutting his academic career short and changing his last name to pursue fame in Hollywood.
Although Phipps’ entertainment career was put on hold as he served in the military during World War II, he went on to act in more than 80 movies, 130 television shows and numerous commercials alongside stars including Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando and Robert Mitchum.
He had roles in many films, including “The War of the Worlds,” “Invaders from Mars,” “Train to Alcatraz,” “Riot in Cell Block 11,” “Julius Caesar,” “Cat-Women of the Moon” and “Night of the Hunter.” He also appeared in many television shows, including “Batman,” “Gunsmoke,” “Perry Mason,” “Rawhide,” “The Twilight Zone” and “The Wild, Wild West.” But he is perhaps best known by generations as the voice of Prince Charming in Walt Disney’s “Cinderella.”
When Phipps was the subject of a 2005 film festival in Charleston, he sent a message to the audience that he “owes his success to Eastern for preparing him for what was to come.”
Jeffrey G. Scott, Richmond Hills, Ga.
After graduating from the EIU School of Business in 1968, Jeffrey G. Scott served in the U.S. Army before embarking on a highly lauded career in financial services.
Scott recently retired as regional vice president of Sagemark Consulting, formerly CIGNA Financial Advisors, after more than three decades in the financial services industry. Under Scott’s guidance, the firm was a 15-time winner of the General Agents and Managers Association Master Agency Award.
Scott, who is listed in “Who’s Who in Finance and Industry,” is a contributing author for “21st Century Wealth,” a book about financial planning by some of the nation’s leading financial-planning professionals. He is a member of many professional organizations.
Scott, recipient of the Lumpkin College of Business and Applied Sciences Distinguished Business Alumnus award in 1990, was an executive-in-residence for the EIU Department of Management and Marketing in 1995 and has been on the advisory board of the Lumpkin College of Business. He received the EIU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995, and now serves as a member of the EIU Foundation Board of Directors.
Scott and his wife, Lila, attended EIU together; they have two daughters. Through the years, the Scotts have made major gifts to various capital campaigns at EIU and have donated artwork to the Tarble Arts Center. His other philanthropic work includes serving as past chairman of the board of trustees of ChildHelp Virginia, which meets the needs of abused and neglected children, and serving with his church.
Charles Jacobs Younger, Findlay, Ohio
Charles Jacobs Younger served as student body president and played on the EIU baseball team before earning a physics degree from EIU in 1954.
He served in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps until 1956, when he started his career with Illinois Bell Telephone Co. In 1967, he joined Continental Cablevision Inc., rising through the ranks to become executive vice president, making him responsible for operations in eight states with 1.4 million subscribers.
As director of the Illinois-Indiana Cable Association nearly four decades ago, he helped lead the successful fight against state jurisdiction over cable.
He has held leadership roles in many television, arts and community-service organizations. In 1997, he was honored with an honorary doctorate degree from Findlay (Ohio) University, where he had served as a Dana Chair Executive.
Younger has been an avid supporter of EIU through service and financial generosity. His wife, Mariann, also an EIU graduate, is a member of the EIU Foundation Board of Directors, and Younger regularly attends the Foundation meetings and provides helpful financial insights. Younger received the Burnham & Nancy Neal Philanthropy Award for Outstanding Private Foundation.
He is currently involved in a leadership capacity on several private boards, his church and his local community foundation in Findlay, Ohio. The Youngers have five children.