Phyllis P. Marshall pioneered student life and activities at USF. She worked at USF as the director of the student union that is also named after her from 1976 until 1994. High numbers of students, faculty, alumni, family and the public attended a memorial service in celebration of Marshall’s life Monday. She died in her sleep on Feb. 5. Her impact on students and faculty alike was tremendous, and she will be missed at USF.
“She (Marshall) created student life at USF,” said USF President Judy Genshaft. “Every aspect of campus life that students enjoy is based on the tireless efforts of Phyllis Marshall. She is one of the most important figures in USF history.”
On behalf of the university, Genshaft said, “We’re thrilled to be able to celebrate Phyllis Marshall and her legacy. And we always will.”
Tampa Mayor and USF alumna Pam Iorio spoke at the ceremony. “Phyllis Marshall was USF. Phyllis set a tone for the students that has lasted throughout the decades. She made a big university seem like a small, close-knit family.”
The Alumni Association put a link on their Web site in honor of Marshall, and there has been an outpouring of responses. Many people who have posted on the Web site refer to Marshall as a surrogate mother or mom.
Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge, USF alumnus and member of the USF Foundation Board of Trustees Judge Raymond Gross attended the ceremony and spoke of Marshall as being, “The constant figure who was always there. She loved students and the students loved her. She was the face and spirit of this university.”
Grace Allen, wife of USF’s late first president John Allen and longtime friend of Marshall, spoke of how Marshall impacted her.
“Whenever I come to the Marshall Center I feel like I’m coming to Phyllis’ home,” Allen said. “The truth is, Marshall actually did live for a period of time in the first student union that was thencalled a multi-purpose building.
“I will always be grateful of Phyllis Marshall because she has bequeathed me so many happy memories.”
How the student union came to be named the Phyllis P. Marshall Center is a story of its own. The undergraduate class of 1987 is to thank for the dedication of the building. Harold Oehler was a member of student senate when students began to lobby in Tallahassee.
“(Marshall) was our champion and the building had to be named after her,” Oehler said. By law, since Marshall was still living when the building was named after her, there had to be a bill passed in order for the dedication of the building to be allowed.
Oehler spoke figuratively to Marshall at the end of his comments. “Let me tell you what the students think,” he said. “We loved you, we miss you and we’ll never forget you.”
Marshall was a member of a local group known as Athena. Athena is a fellowship of individuals who are concerned with and active in promoting women’s rights. Gwynne Young is a member of Athena and a personal friend of Marshall.
“What (Marshall) did for USF can equally be said about the Athena society. She was a good friend and one of the most thoughtful people I have ever met. If ever there was someone who deserves a celebration of her life it was Phyllis Marshall,” Young said.
Popular local personality and cousin of Marshall’s, Jack Harris, was the master of ceremonies for the celebration of her life.
“She was a counselor, she was a friend, she was a surrogate mother in so many instances,” Harris said.
During the ceremony, a short video clip of Marshall was played. She created the recording as part of USF’s Oral History Program. During the video, Marshall expressed exactly what many people have said about her. “I didn’t have any children of my own, but here (at USF) I’ve had thousands.”