For 32 years, Owen A. Phillips has shown up at The New School in Greenwich Village and taken his position as Campus Security Officer at one of the many buildings that make up the sprawling 100-year-old private urban university. In his role, he is intent on keeping students and faculty safe, not only from an occasional “out of hand” person who may wander near the building, but also from anything he notices that may potentially cause harm.
“If I go around and I see something out of the way that maintenance should be taking care of – if I see a water spill, if I see broken glass that wasn’t observed, if I see a crack in the wall – things like that, I make it my duty to point it out,” Phillips said. “Those are my interests, I pay attention to those things,” so they can be quickly resolved.
Phillips had an early career as an autobody repair person years ago, turning to work as a security officer after being laid off in that field. Initially working with a friend who started a security company in Huntington, Long Island, the daily commute from his home in Queens to Long Island “became too hectic” for him, so he eventually left to find an opportunity closer to home.
Soon after, on referral from another friend, he started work with a private security company then contracted by The New School to be in charge of their campus safety. He later decided that he would prefer to be employed directly by the school and became a full-time employee with them for the past three decades.
His approximate 45-minute commute by bus and train from Queens, gets him to work just before 7:00 a.m. when his shift starts. That’s when his supervisor will assign each security officer a location based on the day’s staffing needs, although his schedule has been a stable 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday at the same location for many years now.
“Right now, I’m stationed at one post,” at Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at 65 West 11th Street, “but I’m willing to go anywhere.” He has done so in the past, moving around among the 15 buildings that house the five major schools of the university, including the well-known Parsons School of Design most readily associated with The New School.
The father of grown children who live on their own, Phillips likes to mostly relax on weekends, unless a social event comes up and he’s in the mood, then he “will go for it.”
Phillips says he is especially thankful for his good health because he’s “been through a whole lot through sickness,” and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
“I plan to stay as long as I can,” he says of his longtime position at the Lang Building, where he enjoys what he does and gets along well with students and staff.
“As long as God gives me health and strength,” you will find him working, keeping an eye on everything.
“Right now, I’m stationed at one post, but I’m willing to go anywhere.” Owen Phillips, Lifesaver/Helping Hand Award