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John F. Phiel, Jr. ’63 ‘65

When John F. Phiel, “Jack” began his work in communications engineering he was, as he put it, “climbing all over antennas.” Now looking back at a long and productive career, he can be proud to have been one of the remarkably talented engineers that sent some of earth’s first communications satellites into orbit in the late ‘60s.

Without hesitation, Phiel proclaims it was his Drexel University education that prepared him for a career in that new leading edge industry, which continues to this day to evolve and meet changes in communications. The impact it made led directly to his decision to give back through a bequest to Drexel University.

Jack and his wife Vesta have long been aware that their lives have been enriched by Drexel University. “Drexel is a practical school,” he says. “Drexel prepares people for a career and students come out of there with a degree that’s usable.”

Accordingly, The John Frederick Phiel Endowed Fellowship Fund has been established as a bequest. The fellowship is specifically designed to help Drexel retain the most talented engineering students and thereby prepare them for a rewarding career. On considering the fellowship, Phiel decided it was important for him to support Drexel engineering students who are entrepreneurial, down-to-earth and ready to build a business and make a difference with their work.

Phiel also acknowledges his good fortune to have early associations with senior technical staff and management, through the Drexel co-op, which challenged and prepared him to enter and rise within Management at Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat) and later, at International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat).

Phiel came to realize that an engineering background could not only lead to a rewarding career in itself, but also be a valuable asset in advancement to management positions. For those with an entrepreneurial attitude, as well as a penchant for risk tolerance and lots of energy, some would even go on to build and found companies.

“Out of all the engineers I encountered in my career, few committed to the path toward management and even fewer created their own businesses,” he says. “But, none who chose to do so regretted it.”

He explains that with the fellowship, he wants “to help young people that are excellent students with good communication skills and who have some notion that maybe they’d like to build a successful company.”

Phiel added, “You need the ability to convince people because you want to hire them, you want to sell something, or you will need to convince a board to do something. Future business owners need to be well suited for this broader world.”

Phiel, ever-mindful of the big picture, also says, “I happen to think it’s people like that who are more likely to give back to the University.”

Also a supporter of his Alpha Pi Lambda fraternity, Phiel became very interested in giving back to the College of Engineering after working closely with a fellow alum and eventual supervisor at Comsat, James Potts ’53 ’58. “Jim became a life-long mentor,” he says.

Happy to establish this fellowship, Phiel and his wife would like to see it continue on and grow as well, perhaps made possible by future donors.

“I would like to see a dozen or more, or twenty or more students, supported by this fellowship and others like this, all the time,” he says.