Family proud to have 8 bears with nearly a dozen degrees
Orange and black runs deep in the veins of Brenda Phillips and her large family. Not only do Brenda and husband David work for and hold degrees from Mercer, but several of their children have also graduated from the University. On Saturday, their son Daniel McEwen participated in the Atlanta commencement, becoming the seventh member of the Phillips/McEwen family to graduate from Mercer.
David started the family tradition of attending Mercer, earning his bachelor’s degree in information systems in 2008 and master’s in software systems in 2013. He is an adjunct instructor for Mercer’s Penfield College.
Brenda has worked at Mercer since 2005 and is the assistant registrar for Regional Academic Centers. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human services from Mercer in 2015 and 2018, respectively.
Brenda said her husband’s positive experiences at Mercer made others in the family want to follow in his footsteps. He told them how much he liked the courses, the small class sizes and the one-on-one time with instructors. Brenda already knew about the academic programs at Mercer from working in the registrar’s office and decided that, since she was already pursuing a career at Mercer, she might as well work toward degrees at the University that would help her advance.
“Once we got one child in (Mercer), the others were like, ‘I want to go there too,’” Brenda said.
“The staff and the instructors, they really care about the students. They care if you succeed or fail. You’re not just another number; you’re a person.”
The couple lives in Jackson and will celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary in June. Altogether, David and Brenda have 10 children: Brenda has three, David has five, and they raised two of Brenda’s sister’s children. All but one live in the Middle Georgia area.
Besides David and Brenda, the other double-Bears in the family are Joshua Phillips, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering, and his wife Caitlyn, who holds bachelor’s and master’s in biomedical engineering. Michelle McEwen earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and women’s and gender studies, and Anna McEwen in liberal studies. Daniel McEwen will complete his criminal justice degree in August; and Carl Phillips, a junior studying informatics, is pursuing the family’s 12th degree from Mercer.
Brenda said she loves the fact that she is the “Mama Bear” to a family of Bears.
“We’re just thrilled that we’ve all had good experiences here. Our degrees have prepared us for really good employment,” she said. “Mercer is a part of our family.”