For Thomas Philo, an archivist in California State University, Dominguez Hills’ (CSUDH) University Library, an “exceptional sense of service” requires one to persistently look for ways to serve on campus and for “opportunities to serve that were not there before.” For his eagerness and skill in applying his vision of service for the entire CSUDH campus community, Philo was honored with the 2016 “Excellence in Service Award.”
Philo will carry the University Mace, an honor reserved for highly distinguished faculty members, at the College of Business Administration and Public Policy Commencement Ceremony at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, May 20.
The Excellence in Service Award recognizes “contributions to university governance and development, and acknowledges that service is an essential component of CSUDH’s mission.”
“So what is service here? I think Cal State Dominguez is known as the place that opens the door for people who can’t find the door elsewhere,” said Philo. “But our big ticket item is that yes, we get them inside the door, but we then point them to another door that’s at the top of the stairway and say, ‘That’s what you need to get through.’ Service is whatever you will do to get your students through that door… That’s what service means to me.”
Philo came to CSUDH in 2005 as part of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant to process papers related to the Rancho San Pedro and the Dominguez family archives housed by the University Library. The papers also contained records of land leased to Japanese American farmers, some of which provided evidence of “California’s attitude toward, and treatment of, Japanese Americans during the period of California’s Alien Land Acts.”
“The records I processed, and those that have come into the archives in the last 10 years, have made a significant impact on our students,” said Philo. “There is a natural fit with archives and the History Department, and we have cultivated that relationship.”
Philo’s outstanding service to the campus as an archivist and cataloger has landed him on numerous campus committees and bodies, such as the University Curriculum Committee, the WASC Steering Committee, as a Student Research Day judge, and on executive-level search committees.
“When he [Philo] participates, he is there to contribute and work—not to simply attend a meeting, for example,” wrote Naomi 0. Moy, academic resources librarian in the University Library, who drafted one of the numerous letters of support for Philo’s faculty award. “This desire to put all of his efforts into providing service for others is what those of us here on campus see all the time in his work with students and faculty. Tom is genuine, and he always puts other’s needs first.”
At CSUDH, Philo has also co-taught information literacy sessions, and has trained students on such programs as digital collection management. Off campus, his is founding member and served as vice chair of the Carson Historical Committee, and has been invited to present at many local and regional organizations and societies.
“Mr. Philo’s dedication and engagement with the campus and larger community has been exemplary as demonstrated by his voluminous and substantial activities throughout his career at CSUDH,” wrote Stephanie Sterling Brasley, dean of the University Library. “I applaud his commitment to the CSUDH community.”
Philo was also recognized for his “tireless work” as leader of the rededication of the Shinwa-En Japanese Garden in 2010.
“I have had the opportunity to work with Thomas on several special events including the Japanese Garden rededication,” said Cheryl McKnight, director of the Center for Service Learning, Internships and Civic and Community Engagement (SLICE). “I was impressed, not only with his dedication to presenting the university in the best light possible, but also for his perseverance in ensuring that members of the local community had a quality experience as we celebrated the garden’s history.”
Philo is “deeply grateful” for the support he has received for his faculty award, and for being recognized for his commitment to serving the needs of students and the university.
“It is simple to do this, but it does demand that one completely accept the core mission of the university and always look for ways to promote them,” he said. “I have always tried to show that level of service—to our students, to all members of the campus, and as someone representing the university in the greater communities.”