Friends share legacy of Phillip RobinsonPublished 11:50am Thursday, February 7, 2013
When Phillip Robinson died Jan. 30, he left a legacy of unwavering dedication to the education system in Alexander City as well as the community as a whole.
“It was an honor to get to work with him,” said Ty Spears, who worked with Robinson for about a year at Stephens Elementary School. “He was so intelligent and so knowledgeable about the school and about the community.”
Robinson began his career in education in Alexander City as a language arts teacher at Benjamin Russell High School. After also serving as a history teacher, he later became the assistant principal at Stephens under Principal Randy Willis.
“We shared a lot pleasures, aches and pains with the kids,” Willis said. “He was very instrumental in helping me run the school.”
During his time at Stephens, Robinson organized a breakfast program for children who didn’t have breakfast at home, Willis said.
“That was one of his favorite activities in the morning, to supervise that,” Willis said.
Willis said Robinson was also highly involved in helping problem children.
“He was just a fine man,” Willis said. “I appreciate the opportunity to have worked with him.”
Helping problem children – pushing them to excel – is one quality for which many remember Robinson.
“He interacted with the kids well,” said Martha Speaks, who was a teacher at the time with the “emotional conflict” children. “They really loved Mr. Robinson. He would try and work with them and tell them, ‘Look, you don’t want to go down this road. You want to try to go on the right road. You want an education. You want to be somebody.’”
And Robinson wanted the best from teachers and staff at Stephens, as well.
“Whatever he wanted you to do, he was strict about how we wanted it done,” said Edward Hawkins, custodian. “You couldn’t just throw up a mess to him … (He wanted you to) take pride in your work.”
But although Robinson had a serious, intense side, he was also fun-loving.
“When he would get tickled – I can see him now – he would kind of bend over (laughing), and he would just stand back up,” said Julia Abrams, who took over the assistant principal position with Robinson retired in 2002. “He was hilarious.”
Others also remember him for his humor.
“I loved his chuckle,” said Ann Goree, who described him as “jovial.”
And to many, he was more than just an administrator. Teachers said he was approachable on a personal level as well as a professional level.
“He was a mentor to me as well as a father figure,” said Vanessa Brooks. “I just adored him … (He was) someone that I could talk to.”
Robinson’s wife and son said they have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from the community since his death.
“He cared deeply about the community,” said his son, Querry Robinson. “He was dedicated to making sure each and every child took advantage of every opportunity possible to improve their lives.”
That was one thing many remember about Robinson.
“He was a valuable part of the community,” Spears said. “He really cared about the kids because he knew how important young people were.”
It was also a quality his wife, Joyce Robinson, wanted to share.
“He always liked to challenge the young people to do things and not to just ride along,” Joyce said.
But his insistence on high standards was well received by those he tried to reach.
“Students felt like he loved them,” said Jackie Brewer. “He could deal with them, and even if he had to deal with them severely or come down hard on them, they knew he loved them.”
“He always held the kids to a high standard,” said Genevieve Hicks. “He wanted them to have high expectations for themselves.”
Willis, perhaps, said it best: “He will be missed but not forgotten.”