James T Phillips

 

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Dr. James T. Phillips, a Fellow of the Actuarial Society of America and then of the Society of Actuaries for sixty-four years, died in Princeton, New Jersey, on June 1,1986, near the close of his ninety-first year.

Born in Perth, Scotland, on June 30, 1895, Mr. Phillips came to Canada before 1908. He served from 1915 to 1919 as lieutenant in the field artillery, Canadian Expeditionary Forces. He and his warhorse fought at the battles of Verdun (the war of attrition), Ypres and The Sommes.

Upon returning to Canada, after The Great War, he enrolled at The University of Toronto originally studying at the Theological Seminary then switching over to study higher mathematics.

In 1921 he graduated Magna cum Laude from the University of Toronto and immediately entered New York Life Insurance Company as an actuarial student, earning his Associateship in the Actuarial Society in 1922 his Fellowship in 1924.

He married Marjorie Gardiner in 1921 having 3 children. His son, James T. Phillips Jr., is my father.

As Chief Actuary for New York Life his work was seminal in introducing computer development to New York Life. In the 1950’s he predicted that there would be massive theft of funds from the U.S. Federal Bank from overseas (“hacking” as is termed now) in the years 2000-2010. His predictions stand unprecedented to this day.

At New York Life he was appointed assistant actuary in 1929, actuary in 1937, vice president in 1948, vice president and chief actuary in 1953, and senior vice president and chief actuary in 1956. He retired in 1962.

Working as Chief Actuary for the Manhattan Project with Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, they came to the conclusion that there would be massive destruction if the bomb(s) were dropped and both he and Oppenheimer pressured the U.S.government to abandon the project only to be overruled.
According to his daughter, my Aunt, Janice Phillips Pell, he was never the same after the bombing of Japan

Well known for his work in the disability field, Dr. Phillips took charge of a major revision of that benefit in his company in the face of deteriorating experience that had emerged just before and during the Depression.He contributed four papers and numerous discussions at Society meetings and was best known as Principal Co-Contributor, with Arthur Hunter, to the 1932 edition of Actuarial Study No. 5 -Disability Benefits in Life Insurance Policies.

Dr. Phillips served three 3-year terms on the Board of Governors of the present Society between 1952 and 1963. During those years he served as chairman of the program committee for the XVth International Congress (New York, 1957) and as a member of the 1956-57 Society committee that laid the groundwork for the 1958 C.S.O. Mortality Table.

For many years he was active in alumni affairs of the University of Toronto. At Christ Episcopal Church in Short Hills, New Jersey, he served in several capacities, including for a time teacher and superintendent of what was one of the largest (1,000 pupils) Episcopal church schools in the United States.

During his lifetime he raised millions of US Dollars for the University as President of the University of Toronto Associates for the US. He was conferred by The University of Toronto, an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, honors causa, on November 25th 1966.

He retired in the 1960’s and returned to live in Toronto in his later years after his first wife, Marjorie, died in 1967. He was then later married to his childhood sweetheart, Helen Yates, having a second marriage that lasted over 20 years. He returned to the U.S., after Helen passed away, to Short Hills, New Jersey, to be closer to his daughter and son and grandchildren, where they had spent many happy years. He died at the age of 92 in 1986. He is dearly loved and missed by all.

Sarah Phillips

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