Everette Phillips ’82 is a longstanding board member of the Cornell Alumni Association of Orange County, and is part of the Entrepreneurship at Cornell advisory board.
What classes had the most impact on your student experience?
There were many classes that I enjoyed and for vastly different reasons. I enjoyed both Physics of Life and a mathematical modeling course as I learned a great deal about hemoglobin while challenging the limits of my capabilities in mathematics (let’s say partial credit was my friend). I realized that soil could “fail” as a mechanical structure. I learned how to design machinery and how to write computer programs, which changed my life. I also needed a class that met at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday to graduate, and vegetable identification was the only elective that fit the schedule. I learned about food that I was never exposed to while growing up, and the teachings remain as I’m the primary cook for my family.
How has Cornell impacted who you are today?
I learned the basics of systems engineering—computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and life science—a combination that led to a long and fulfilling career in the field of robotics.
What makes you feel most connected to Cornell while living in Orange County?
I enjoy helping students and young alumni connect with alumni related to careers and entrepreneurship. They do not need my help as much as some orientation, and I enjoy meeting each one.
Do you have a favorite place on campus?
The White Room of Uris Library—I could spend hours there reading and taking in the view. I feel “smarter” when I am reading there.
What Cornell memory puts a smile on your face?
KJP, a food-service provider, initiated a friendship while serving me food in the Risley Hall cafeteria.
Is there a Cornell program or initiative that is near and dear to your heart, and why?
Entrepreneurship at Cornell is a program where I spend time and energy. It helps me connect with all colleges and undergraduate and graduate-level students interested in creating a business from an idea. There is something special about seeing an idea become a reality.
Did anyone at Cornell have a positive influence on your life?
Many people at Cornell have had a positive influence on my life. Still, serving on the advisory board of Entrepreneurship at Cornell has helped me meet and get to know Cornellians who have achieved more than I have and are more generous than I am, and thus serve as models for things I would like to accomplish.
Can you tell us about the networking initiative you started in the west?
I manage a monthly networking lunch for fellow Cornellians, which started as a simple open table in a conference room where maybe one other alum would join me. Over time it grew into a virtual event with hundreds expressing interest. It started with a sincere interest in having the event, even if only one other was interested. Sometimes people set their goals of influencing or helping others too high—sometimes, the purpose of helping just one is enough to make a big difference over time.
Do you have a favorite memory from your time as a volunteer?
I gave a presentation to students in Ithaca on how to network with alumni and achieve career goals. I demonstrated a personal five-year plan using LinkedIn as a tool. It was well-received.
Why do you give back to Cornell through volunteering? What excites you the most about your role?
I raised five kids. I love them, but they are tired of hearing my stories about Cornell and my career. When I volunteer with students, they express interest in my career, and I get to tell my tired stories repeatedly to younger people who seem to have a genuine interest.
What do you like about volunteering?
I am an introvert. Most people do not know this. Volunteering forces me to engage in a way that I am both comfortable and feel valued.