June 1, 2022

Questions and Answers with Willie Phillips '00

Your home: Washington, D.C.

Your hometown: Fairhope, Alabama

Willie L. PhillipsTell us about your family. I’ve been married to my wife, Gabrielle, for 14 years. We have two small children — Peyton and Tripp.

What is your profession? Commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). I am also an attorney.

What made you choose this profession? After graduating law school, I went to work at a private law firm where my practice was primarily energy regulatory law.

In your profession, how have you been a pioneer or trailblazer? I served as the youngest chairman of the D.C. Public Service Commission, and I’m only the fourth African American to serve on the FERC in its entire history.

How did Montevallo affect your career path? I discovered my passion for public service at UM. I was SGA president, a Montevallo Master and president of my fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi, Polemarch). Being a student leader gave me confidence and experiences that I still draw on today.

Please tell us about your educational foundation (degrees, and other education achievements): bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Montevallo; J.D. degree from Howard University School of Law; member of the Alabama State Bar and D.C. Bar Associations.

How did you know you belonged at Montevallo? I attended Boys State, which was hosted at Montevallo, and I fell in love with the campus and the people.

What would you tell a prospective student who was considering UM? Montevallo is a complete college experience and an excellent education. The small class sizes, quality professors and active student life rivals any school in the region.

What awards/honors have you received? Is there a most significant honor? If
so, please tell us about it. I’m especially proud to have served as the immediate past chair of Living Classrooms of the National Capital Region.

What is your secret for success? I treat people the way I want to be treated.

What is the best advice you have received? Happiness is not having everything that you want, but wanting everything that you have.

Do you have a favorite motto? If so, what is it? Servant leadership.

What are your hobbies? I’m boring. I love reading, hiking and spending time with my wife and kids.

What is your favorite Montevallo memory as a student? I often think about my last day in the Anna Irvin Dining Hall before graduation. Me and my fraternity brothers were savoring the moment and pretending like we weren’t a little sad. One by one folks started to leave until it was just me and my line brothers left. Once we realized it was just us, we dapped each other and walk away. We didn’t know it would be almost 20 years before we all would be together again. It reminds me to never make the mistake of thinking you have time.

What is your favorite Montevallo memory as an alum? Speaking at the 2021 fall commencement.

What would you like alumni to know about reconnecting with the University and alumni association? Do it. And go back to campus whenever you can. While the campus has grown and changed — when you drive onto the red bricks, you still get that feeling like when you were a student. It’s so very good for the soul.