Phil Rath is credited with being a visionary and a transformative leader. His extensive work and dedication to Vincennes University, his hometown of Vincennes, and the Knox County region made him the perfect recipient of the 2019 Walter A. Davis Memorial Citation for Service, awarded by the Vincennes University Alumni Association at a reception on June 4 at the Robert E. Green Activities Center.
Rath will be retiring later this summer as VU's vice president for Financial Services and Government Relations
“I saw quickly when I came as provost the kinds of things Phil did to contribute to the success of Vincennes University: the tireless work he did and that he brought to the table different ways of looking at problems and those different views have made this institution special,” VU President Chuck Johnson said.
“Vincennes University, the Vincennes community and the state of Indiana owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for Phil’s great career, all the things he has done, all his contributions, and all the things he continues to do every day. His tireless commitment to Vincennes University and his passion and love for Vincennes University, I don’t think have been equaled anywhere.”
Over the course of his career, Rath has led the construction or renovation of nearly every building on VU’s campuses, and has overseen numerous capital projects and renovations totaling more than $250 million. He played an instrumental role in helping the University evolve from a single campus to a statewide institution of higher education.
Former VU president Dick Helton described Rath as “godsend” when Helton arrived at the University. He saluted his commitment to the entire community.
“He has great visionary skills,” Helton said. “I will always appreciate what he has done for this campus. I will appreciate what he has done for the community. When you think about Phil Rath, you think about him being the VP for finances and government relations. That government relations extended into our community and Vincennes, Indiana is better for having Phil Rath in that community.”
Rath has been involved in significant efforts to improve the economic and quality of life aspects of the community. He has been a leader in attracting new businesses and has helped position Knox County as an attractive area to locate.
ABOUT THE RECIPIENT
Rath grew up in Vincennes and graduated from Rivet High School in 1974. He then enrolled at VU where he was a member of the men's varsity basketball team. He completed his associate degree in business administration in 1976 and transferred to Indiana University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in accounting. Phil became a certified public accountant and earned his master's in business administration from Ball State University.
He began his professional career at Colgate-Palmolive and returned to Vincennes in 1983 to serve as the controller at Vincennes University.
Rath’s efforts and impact on the community are evidenced in the transformation of the Vincennes campus over the past 20 years. As vice president for Financial Services and Government Relations, he has overseen numerous capital projects and renovations worth more than $250 million. He has led the construction or renovation of nearly every building on VU’s campuses, including the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center, the Van Eaton Indiana Center for Applied Technology and Updike Hall, home to the Center for Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. He continues to lead VU through its multimillion dollar renovation of the Shake Learning Resource Center that will transform the library into a state-of-the-art, technology-driven academic support facility.
At the state level, Rath has established a reputation as a tireless advocate for Vincennes University and the Vincennes community. He is a sought-after expert on educational legislation as well as other legislation relating to economic development and fiscal policy. His presence in the halls of the Statehouse has served to raise the university’s profile among state government leaders and to influence policy for the betterment of countless Hoosier households.
Rath’s efforts have extended well beyond the university. He has been involved in significant efforts to improve the economic and quality of life aspects of the community. As chair of the YMCA Board, he led a successful fundraising effort for the Bettye J. McCormick Senior Center. A long-standing member of the Knox County Development Corp., Rath previously served as chair of the Board and currently serves as vice chair.
Rath has been a leader in attracting new businesses and positioning Knox County as an attractive area to locate. One of his most visionary projects was the ambitious plan to renovate the historic Kimmell Park, located along the banks of the Wabash River. He also worked with the Utility Services Board to help connect the park to the George Rogers Clark Memorial by creating the pedestrian-friendly walkway. Since Kimmell Park's reopening in 2017, it has been widely recognized as a quality-of-life asset that the community will benefit from for many generations to come.
Rath and his wife Marianne (Hulen) have three children, Mitch, Todd, and Jennifer, and are the proud grandparents of Keaton, Noah, Baylor, Campbell, Bristol, Brecken, Sadie, and Greyson.
Congratulatory messages may be sent to Rath in care of the VU Alumni Office, 1002 N. First St., Vincennes, IN 47591.
ABOUT THE CITATION
The Walter A. Davis Memorial Citation for Service is named for former VU President Walter A. Davis, who served from 1924-50. The award is presented annually to a VU alumnus or resident of the greater VU Community and recognizes civic leadership and contributions, in addition to professional achievements. Recipients are selected from nominations submitted by alumni and the public, with the final selection made by a committee comprised of a member of the VU Board of Trustees, a former recipient, a representative of the public, and alumni.
Recent recipients include Christina M. Ernst, Judge Jim Osborne, Dick and Cindy Helton, John M. Lyons, Pat Summers, Gus Stevens, Rowe Sargent, Frank Ladner, George Ridgway, Rabb Emison, Bob Grumieaux, Jim Gislason and Shirley Rose, while previous award winners include Judge Sydney Gelb, C. James McCormick, Isaac K. Beckes, Robert E. Green, and Judge Curtis G. Shake, the first recipient of the award.