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MSU mourns the death of former provost and professor Dr. John Philley

John Philley PictureDr. John Calvin Philley, 85, of Morehead, passed away on Saturday, July 17, 2021. He was born on Oct. 17, 1935, in Indianola, Mississippi. He was the son of the late J.W. and Mary Philley.  

He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Betty Lou (Davis) Philley; children, Dave Philley (Karen), Leigh Taylor, and Melissa Clauson (Will); brother J.W. Philley, Jr. and sister Marsha Collins (Allan); grandchildren Jacob, Calvin and Jonah Philley and Jordan Philley Saylor (Josh), Will Taylor, Lilly and Sam Clauson.  

Philley earned a Bachelor of Science from Millsaps College in 1957 and continued his education at the University of Tennessee, where he earned a Master of Science in Geology in 1961 and a Ph.D. in Geology in 1971. The University of Tennessee is also where he met his wife, Betty, and the two were married in 1959.   

Philley taught high school for a year in Vincennes, Indiana, before moving to Morehead. He began his 37-year career with Morehead State University as then-Morehead State College's first full-time geology and physical science instructor in 1960.   

Philley advanced through the ranks, serving as chair of the Department of Physical Sciences from 1974 to 1986 when he was named dean of MSU's former College of Arts and Sciences. He was the University's chief academic officer from 1990 until his retirement in 1997. After his retirement, he taught two classes each fall term from 1997 until 2000, completing over 40 years of service to Morehead State University.   

He remained active after retirement and was instrumental in obtaining funds to create endowments for the University's geology program. His efforts led to him being named the Volunteer Fund Raiser of the Year by the MSU Foundation in 2003 and he was appointed a trustee for the Foundation. He assisted in the development of the MSU Retirees Association and served as its first president. Philley was instrumental in establishing a geology major and minor and assisted in developing the University's environmental science program. He was involved with the state's Science and Math Alliance, which helped math and science teachers enrich their instruction techniques. He received one of MSU's highest honors, the Founders Award for University Service, in 2004.  

A certified professional geologist, he is the author or co-author of 35 articles and guidebooks in his field. He was active in the National Association of State Boards of Geologists and the Kentucky Board for the Registration of Professional Geologists. He held offices in the Geological Society of Kentucky, the American Institute of Professional Geologists and the Kentucky Academy of Science and was named the latter organization's "Outstanding Teacher in Science" at the college level. He was a member of several honors and honorary societies, most notably the Society of Sigma Xi and the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. He served as president of the University's chapter of Phi Kappa Phi for two years. He was listed in American Men and Women in Science.  

In lieu of flowers, the family has set up a memorial fund with the MSU Foundation. The fund will support students studying in the geology program. Friends and family interested in donating to the fund can visit Contributions can also be mailed to: MSU Foundation, 121 E. 2nd St., Suite 107, Morehead, KY 40351. 

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