In choosing a gift and a location for a living memorial to a woman who was full of life and purpose for nearly a century, the Yavapai College Foundation couldn't have chosen better.

In honoring founding member and former president, the late Jean Phillips, the Foundation Board of Directors planted a Honey Sunburst Locust Tree in a YC sculpture garden location "hugged by" the Performing Arts Center and an amphitheater named in honor of Jean's late husband, Dr. Mel Phillips.

The tree species was a favorite of Jean's, adored for its burst of spring color and its high-desert compatibility. Jean adorned herself in brightly hued suits.

The YCPAC was constructed under Jean's watch as YCF president, while the shaded amphitheater that bears her husband's name overlooks the expertly landscaped and peaceful sculpture garden featuring an array of permanent artworks, walkways, benches and all manner of seasonal flora.

Jean's daughter, Jan Phillips Jones, expressed delight in her mother's memorial gift when the YCF Board dedicated the tree on May 12. "Hugged by dad's amphitheater and watched over by the performance hall… on a campus she lived to see grow into a diverse and wonderful asset to Yavapai County, this is a most appropriate spot to remember her. The symbolism of a community tree in the town where in 1948 mom and dad chose to settle their midwestern roots is not lost."

Jan thanked the Foundation for honoring her mother in such a "beautiful and meaningful" way. She said her mother's affinity for the Honey Sunburst Locust Tree fostered its popularity in the community. "When its beautiful green leaves turn a magical yellow, we can be reminded of her bright flame that loved her time here on earth, especially in Arizona, in Prescott and on this campus."

Mary Talosi, Foundation executive director, spoke at the tree dedication of her special friendship with Jean. "The lunches we shared… the trips to her hairdresser and most importantly, our weekly calls or emails became part of both of our lives. When the pandemic hit, the get-togethers came to an abrupt halt, but our connection did not." Talosi said the last time she connected with Phillips was through a screen door in December. Jean died a short-time later from complications of COVID pneumonia.

"I am thankful for that day and that moment. I can still hear her voice and see her face with freshly done hair in one of her colorful outfits that she always wore so well," Talosi said.

YC President Dr. Lisa Rhine, Vice President of Community Relations and Student Development Rodney Jenkins, and retired YC President Dr. Penny Wills, also spoke at the tree dedication, sharing anecdotes and praising Jean's steadfast advocacy for the college and her tireless scholarship fundraising. Dr. Rhine said although she didn't have the privilege of knowing Jean for long, she was someone she will never forget.