Dr. Philip Bishop: Adventures in the Human Spirit

Dr. Philip Bishop, dear friend and esteemed colleague to many.

On Tuesday, April 12th, a little after 10 p.m., Valencia Community College lost a dear friend and esteemed colleague, Philip Bishop.   After facing a two-year struggle with cancer, his body finally gave way and Philip moved on in his journey.  His twenty-one years of work at the college and in the community leaves a tremendous legacy and a tremendous loss.

Philip is a colleague and friend who will be greatly missed.  He will be missed in the classroom where he modeled excellence in teaching and encouraged deep thinking from his students.  A compassionate teacher, believing that we all deserve a second chance, he shared his values and influenced many of us across the college in our approach to students.   His own appreciation of the arts came alive in his courses and made the material accessible for our students.  Philip’s guiding principle was “Students First” as is evident in all his work at the college.

His influence reached beyond the classroom to many college-wide initiatives.  Our Provost Ruth Prather speaks of Philip in a beautiful way: “He is an exemplar of the collaborative process.  We have lost one of the most valuable faculty leaders that we have ever had.”   Philip helped mold the college into an institution that holds student learning as its central value.  His input into the Student Core Competencies, Valencia Educator Essential Competencies and General Education Outcomes will resonate throughout the college for years to come.  A great thinker, Philip had the ability to deepen a question, clarify a statement, and push thinking to a new level.  His influence in that work will be sorely missed, but remains our legacy of his powerful vision.

In the Humanities Department on East Campus where he acted as the department coordinator for ten years, many of the tenured faculty looked to Philip as a mentor and guide.  His textbook, Adventures in the Human Spirit, now in its 5th edition, is used throughout the country as a core text in the Humanities, and A Beginners Guide to the Humanities (a handbook on experiencing art) is in its 3rd edition.  This excerpt from his Guide captures the vibrancy and keen delight he radiated about art and life:  “I am still hungry for life, and I trust the poet to tell me how it tastes.” He saw his Guide as the reader’s “ticket to get in the game and begin a lifelong enjoyment of the arts and culture [and] . . .  experience first-hand the artistry of the world’s creative people [and] . . . discover your own creative powers and tap your own creative imagination.” A self-taught appreciator of art himself, he thought that being “smart about art (and other things, too) doesn’t require a sophisticate’s birthright or a minimum intelligence score or even a college degree.  Art smarts come to an open mind that’s willing to reach out, take a risk, and encounter new experience.” 

In addition to teaching at Valencia, and the University of Central Florida part-time, Philip served the college and community in many ways.  His love for art and exquisite writing talents melded beautifully in his work as Orlando Sentinel art critic, a job he began in the mid 90’s and continued until a few short months ago.  Philip, also, had strong values that led him to stand firmly for his beliefs and to serve as the faculty advisor for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for a number of years and later to participate in the college’s Peace and Justice Initiative.  As busy as he was with book revisions, newspaper articles and paper grading–and at the end his struggle with cancer–Philip always welcomed anyone who stopped by, whether for professional advice, personal council, or a friendly conversation. Remarkably, he was on the East Campus one week before his death, doing all that he could to be present for his students and do what he loved most of all . . . teaching.  Philip faced his death openly and bravely.  He shared his experiences, the daily ups and downs of cancer treatment, allowing many to have a window into this painful and moving struggle.  His courage during this time was heroic and leaves a lasting impression on so many of us.

A tender and devoted father and grandfather, Philip took every opportunity to travel to Virginia, North Carolina and New York City to visit with his children, grandchildren, and mother.  For Halloween last year he delighted his grandchildren when he dressed as a pirate.   He was a proud father who boasted about the beautiful parenting skills of his son Aaron and the sharp intellect and leadership of his daughter Shaughna.

Upon his death, he was at home surrounded by family and dear friends.  He is survived by his mother, Verna Bishop; his brother Mark; his sister Elaine; his two children, Aaron and Shaungha Bishop; and his two grandchildren, Cole and Lillian.   Valencia’s loss is far overshadowed by theirs, and we enfold them with our arms of love.   

Philip Bishop helped us see a better vision of the college and of ourselves, and for this, and many other reasons, we will miss him for years to come.

And, finally, in the words of Horatio:  “Goodnight, sweet friend, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

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