Philips C Richards
Phillip Richards will never forget getting into his 1949 Oldsmobile 98 and heading from his Easton, Pa., home to Temple in 1958 to take his placements tests. The Olds was a classic, but the transmission was not.
“The transmission went out on me at Horsham. I hitchhiked a ride in to Temple,” said Richards with a laugh.
It was not an auspicious beginning for what turned out to be an impressive academic experience. But then, creating opportunities where others might see roadblocks is a hallmark of Richards’ successful career.
Take the choice of a college. Temple had not been on Richards’ radar at first; he had his heart set on the U.S. Naval Academy. His board scores were just right, until the academy upped the entrance requirements the year Richards would have been eligible. So much for the Naval Academy.
He did have other options. Richards was a star wrestler at Easton High School and found himself heavily recruited by some very prestigious schools. Why did he pick Temple?
“John Rogers was the wrestling coach at Temple. He recruited me harder than any of the other 17 schools that I had scholarships to,” Richards recalled. It was that passion and personal touch that brought Richards to Temple, where he flourished on the wresting mat and as president of the student council.
Rogers, who had played football for Temple but had not been a wrestler, knew how to motivate his team. Take the time Richards faced a former high school competitor whom he had never beaten. Rogers fired up Richards for the contest, explaining the winner that day would have either 4 wins or 4 losses on their permanent record making sure that Phil knew the outcome was up to him, not his opponent.
“I just killed the guy,” said Richards who will be inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame in April 2010.
That kind of motivation has also been a hallmark of Richards career. After graduating Temple, (where he received the prestigious Sword Award as outstanding senior classman) Richards went on to a career in the insurance business, beginning in Philadelphia and then growing a $40 million revenue business in the Midwest, starting with North Star.
Today, he is Chairman and CEO of the affiliated companies that operate under the name North Star Resource Group which represents a fully integrated array of financial services for individuals and businesses of all sizes and has over 80,000 clients with offices in 11 states.
The winner of many industry awards, Richards is also a successful speaker and author, having recently written “25 Secrets for Sustainable Success” and is the 66th recipient of the John Newton Russell Award, the insurance industry’s highest award.
Coming back to Temple as a trustee has allowed Richards to remember his best times on campus (He once worked as a coat checker in Mitten Hall alongside fellow trustees Bill Cosby and Lewis Katz.) and to recall those special qualities that drew him to Temple are still true today.
“The diversity at Temple was a revelation. I didn’t have that in my high school,” he said. “For a young man like me, that was a completely new and beautiful experience.”
And while today’s facilities are far more modern and expansive than those he experienced in the late 1950s and early 60s, he said the heart and soul of the university has remained the same.
“Temple is still a place that is focused on the student,” he said. “If you think about what Temple offers – the diversity, the culture, the opportunities that come with living in Philadelphia – you will realize what a great place Temple is today. These things will put you in good position for the rest of your life.”
Richards’ career is a testament to that truth.