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Furniture Industry Veteran Dave Phillips Receives Prestigious Seal Prize

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North Carolina native and former U.S. Ambassador S. Davis (Dave) Phillips has received the 2010 Choate Seal Prize, the highest honor bestowed upon an alumnus for outstanding leadership and for making significant contributions to their country, community and school.

President John F. Kennedy was the first alumnus to receive the honor followed by others such as Adlai Stevenson, Paul Mellon, Edward Albee, Glenn Close, Ali MacGraw, Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Douglas.

Phillips was the founding chairman of Phillips Factors Corp., which provided financial services to the furniture industry and merged with BB&T Corp. (NYSE: BB&T). He was also the founder of Phillips Mills which merged with Culp Inc. (NYSE: CFI). He was a founding partner in the Market Square Partnership, which provided showrooms to the furniture industry and merged with Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO). A businessman, philanthropist, civic leader, and former North Carolina Secretary of Commerce, Phillips brought tremendous experience to his service as a U. S. Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia. 

Upon receiving the award, Phillips told the nearly 1,000 students and faculty about his experience as one of the school’s first exchange students to attend Moscow State University and about his travels extensively throughout Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Poland during the Cold War. It was this experience, Phillips said, that prepared him for his role, nearly 45 years later, as ambassador to the former Soviet Republic.

In his introduction, Choate Headmaster Edward J. Shanahan noted, “S. Davis Phillips came to Choate in September 1957 from a prominent family in High Point, North Carolina.  As the result of a physical handicap, a below-the-knee leg amputation, Dave’s participation in sports was limited, but his enthusiasm knew no bounds. He earned varsity letters as co-manager of the football and wrestling teams. Said Coach Burge Ayres of Dave’s leadership abilities, ‘He lifted each team by the enormous force of his personality.’ After he received his diploma from Choate in 1961, this native son returned to the University of North Carolina for college.”

Phillips is presently serving on the Wake Forest University Medical Center Board of Visitors and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He has served on the board of numerous endeavors such as the Duke University Trinity Board and the Smithsonian Institution. He also has served as chairman of the World Games of the Special Olympics and the Wake Forest School of Business.

Phillips and his wife, Kay, have four daughters Lil, Choate Class of 1991; Kate, Choate Class of 1994; Bo and Lucy, Choate Class of 2001.

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