It’s a tall order to document the many contributions Phyllis Bridges made to Texas Woman’s University over her 50 years of service, but, by any measure, her legacy to the institution is Texas-sized.
Bridges, a longtime English professor, administrator, award-winning faculty member and historian of the university, passed away April 26 after battling health issues for several months.
“Dr. B worked and led from the heart,” said Kimberly Johnson, TWU’s director of Special Collections & University Archives. “She was more than a teacher, she was an advocate, champion and cheerleader for all our students. While her heart shone bright in the classroom, it was her lasting relationships with her students enduring long after graduation that brought a twinkle to her eyes.”
Added Chancellor Carine M. Feyten, PhD: “(Bridges) was a force at Texas Woman’s from the moment she stepped foot on campus in 1972.”
Besides her lengthy service as a faculty member, Bridges served the university in several other capacities, including provost, graduate dean and interim dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. She also served as executive assistant to then-President Mary Evelyn Blagg-Huey.
In 2010, she was named a Cornaro professor, an accolade that recognizes excellence in teaching and is the university’s highest award for senior faculty members. Bridges authored countless scholarly articles, was an officer of the Texas Folklore Society, and was a two-time gubernatorial appointee to the Texas Council for the Humanities.
In recognition of her contributions to her discipline, the Southwest American Culture Association in 2001 established the Phyllis Bridges Award in Biography, which is presented to a graduate student who prepares the top biography.
Bridges was integral to two separate TWU lecture series, which brought notable authors to Texas Woman’s, and she wrote two books, “Marking a Trail: The Quest Continues,” celebrating the university’s centennial in 2001, and a follow-up, “Marking New Trails: An Informal History of the Texas Woman’s University,” in 2014. The university has recognized Bridges as an honorary alumna and with a Bronze Medal for meritorious service to Texas Woman’s.
Earlier in 2022, she had a key role in bringing the Sarah Weddington Collection to the university. Weddington successfully argued the landmark Roe vs. Wade case before the U.S. Supreme Court, was a former legislator, and lecturer at Texas Woman’s. Bridges and Weddington were childhood friends and later colleagues at the university.
Born and raised in Amarillo, Bridges earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English at West Texas State University and a doctorate in English at Texas Tech University. She began her career as an educator teaching at Amarillo public schools, and landed her first collegiate position as an English instructor at Texas Tech in 1967.
After moving to teach at Texas Woman’s in 1972, Bridges became enamored with the university and its community.
She developed a reputation for enthusiastically mentoring scores of graduate students, and took particular delight in guiding them to degree completion, helping them find jobs and encouraging them as they advanced through their careers, her colleagues recalled. Additionally, she helped establish several scholarships benefiting students.
Among Bridges’ most revered achievements was the integral role she had as chair of the planning committee that established the Blagg-Huey Library, which opened in 1986, Johnson said. That same year, Bridges also was one of several key TWU leaders who successfully testified against a legislative proposal to merge Texas Woman’s with the University of North Texas.
“Dr. B’s life was dedicated to service,” Johnson said. “TWU could ask for no greater supporter. She was a role model to many and a mentor to even more. We will not soon forget all she did and I am confident we will carry on her work.”
See Chancellor Feyten's message to the TWU Community.
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Marketing & Communication