Dr. Richard and Joyce Phillips

Dr. Richard and Joyce Phillips

Emeritus Physician Sets Philanthropic Example

Richard and Joyce Phillips’s gift of individual retirement account assets to Lutheran General Hospital was just what the doctor ordered. 

Richard and Joyce Phillips

When Richard Phillips, MD, and his wife, Joyce, were first married, they followed their parents’ example by making charitable donations to their church. But a number of experiences—both professional and personal—led them to add Lutheran General Hospital as one of their top philanthropic priorities.

In 1967, Lutheran General had the only cancer program in the northwest suburbs that offered radiation therapy for cancer patients, and Dr. Phillips was the only full-time radiation oncologist on staff. A partner soon joined him, but they struggled to accommodate all the area patients who wanted to receive care close to home rather than travel downtown.

To meet community need, the hospital’s Service League donated the funds to build a new radiation oncology department with two linear accelerators in the early 1970s—just one of countless examples of how supporters have helped Advocate Health Care provide the best possible cancer care. Those supporters include Dr. Phillips and his wife, Joyce, whose many charitable donations to Advocate included a gift of individual retirement account (IRA) assets to Lutheran General Hospital.

For the Phillipses, the question was never whether to give. “Giving is such a natural thing, we just do it,” says Joyce, who for many years also gave generously of her time as a member of the hospital’s gala committee. “We feel a calling.”

The questions were where to give—and what to give.

“I served on the hospital’s board of trustees for many years, and came to understand that there are always far more needs than can be funded by fees for service alone,” says Dr. Phillips, who also saw firsthand the difference that charitable gifts made. For example, when a former patient surprised him with a bequest of $35,000, he used it to purchase a then-state-of-the-art treatment planning computer that enabled him and his colleagues to make radiation therapy safer and more effective. “It made our practice so much better,” he says.

The death of Joyce’s mother from breast cancer inspired the Phillipses to make a significant gift to the hospital’s Caldwell Breast Center, and favorable tax treatment encouraged them to tap retirement assets to fund the planned gift. Individuals aged 70 ½ and older can receive a dual tax benefit when they authorize as much as $100,000 a year in traditional or Roth IRA funds to be distributed to a charity such as an Advocate hospital or program: The distributions are not taxed as income, and they also entitle the donor to a charitable deduction.

Years after Dr. Phillips’s retirement, the couple remains engaged with the hospital, and their generosity continues to have an impact—on themselves as well as on others. The Phillipses still socialize with other volunteers Joyce met while planning fundraising galas; the Caldwell Breast Center has been nationally designated a Breast Center of Excellence; and their three adult daughters are teaching their own children to be philanthropic the way they learned from their parents and their parents learned before them—by example.

First published: Fall 2013