Robert Schaeffer Phillips, an acclaimed author and native of Laurel, passed away on Jan. 21, 2022.  

Born in Milford in 1938, he was the son of Katheryn Schaeffer Phillips and Thomas Allen Phillips, Sr. He was educated in Delaware public schools and received B.A. and M.A. degrees in both journalism and English literature from Syracuse University. For a time, he remained at Syracuse, where he was Assistant Director of Admissions and taught English.

He then moved on to New York City, where he had an award-winning career in advertising. He was a copywriter and vice president with Benton & Bowles, BBDO, and J. Walter Thompson. In the early 1970s he was creative director of Grey Advertising in Düsseldorf, West Germany. 

Best known as a creative writer, he published seven books of poetry, perhaps most notably The Pregnant Man (Doubleday), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, three books of short stories, and 20 volumes of essays, anthologies, and belles lettres. He was also known as an accomplished interviewer. Eight of his interviews with poets and writers were published in a volume, The Madness of Art (Syracuse University Press, 2003); conducted over a 20-year period, these included Philips Larkin, Karl Shapiro, William Styron, and Joyce Carol Oates.

Among his many prizes were an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the George Arents Award, Syracuse University’s highest honor for alumni. He was poetry editor of Texas Review and a council member of the Texas Institute of Letters. He was literary executor for the American poets Delmore Schwartz and Karl Shapiro. As a town resident, he founded and ran the Katonah Poetry Series in Northern Westchester County (NY) for more than 20 years.

From 1991 – 2009 he was a member of the creative writing faculty at the University of Houston, where he was director of the writing program from 1991 to 1996 and received the Outstanding Teacher Award. His predecessor was the late Donald Barthelme.

He was a past chairman of the Poets’ Prize in New York City and a member of the Players’ Club.

He is survived by his beloved wife, Judith Anne Bloomingdale; his son Graham Van Buren Phillips, daughter-in-law, Karen Dammeyer Phillips, and grandson, Chase MacIntyre Phillips, of Weddington, North Carolina; two brothers and a sister. A memorial service is being planned.