Conover retiring as QU president, ready for next chapter of his life

Quincy University outgoing president Phil Conover outside of Francis Hall on Tuesday, May. 7, 2019. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 13, 2019 9:40 am Updated: May. 13, 2019 11:59 am

QUINCY -- It's time, he feels.

Admittedly, Phil Conover is finally ready for the next chapter of his life, one that will find his days far less taxing.

Gone will be a familiar schedule that was constantly stocked with meetings and similar requirements of his time.

Conover, 75, is retiring as president of Quincy University in June, ending a long and rewarding career of public service.

"I don't have any specific plans or goals, other than to keep up with my mowing a little better and play a little more golf," he said.

Conover also is looking forward to work in some more piano playing -- a strong passion of his -- to accent that relaxation. He is particularly fond of the 1959 Ray Charles classic "What'd I Say."

But don't take all of Conover's words concerning retirement and relaxation at complete face value. He will undoubtedly remain busy within the community he loves.

"There will be plenty of opportunities to pitch in and help out," he said. "I like to accumulate experiences, so we'll see what happens."

By the time Conover's tenure as (acting and later full-time) QU president concludes in June, he will have served in the position for a little more than two years. Conover guided the university through some tumultuous economic times following the resignation of Dr. Robert Gervasi, who left to become president of Ohio Dominican University.

Conover will be the featured guest when Quincy University hosts "An Evening with Phil" on May 18. The 6 p.m. event inside QU's Pepsi Arena will celebrate his legacy.

Tickets are $100 and will include dinner and cocktails. Table sponsorships are available.

All funds raised at the tribute will go toward establishing the Phil and Bonnie Conover Endowed Scholarship for QU students. Phil and Bonnie, who attended Unity High School together, have been married for 55 years.

"Bonnie is a strong support person, and that's putting it mildly," Conover said. "Our relationship with the university has been life-enriching for both of us. This has been a life-altering experience for both of us."

"Phil has been a tremendous asset to Quincy University and is the driving force behind the recovery efforts over the past couple of years," said Del Mitchell, chair of the Quincy University Board of Trustees. "This event is a small way we can say thanks for all he has done and, at the same time, raise money to support QU students through the endowed scholarship fund."

Conover said he hopes is remembered for his transparency and truthfulness.

"I would hope they knew I went home every day having done the best I could have done, that it was never about me," he said. "It has been an honor to have done this. It has been life-enriching.

"I've had a long-time passion for the university and what it means to this region.

"I'll always remember the daily interaction with the students," he said. "I've always enjoyed watching the students learn, develop and grow."

Under Conover's leadership, QU has developed several new partnerships, including expanded program offerings with John Wood Community College. In addition, Conover was instrumental in quantifying QU's $53 million annual economic benefit to the region.

Conover has enjoyed a multi-faceted career, accented by an extensive amount of time spent in higher education, including serving as a member and vice-chair of QU's Board of Trustees and as interim vice president of instruction for John Wood Community College. He also served as interim president of the Great River Economic Development Foundation.

Conover taught and coached in several local high schools during his career. He also worked at Quincy Notre Dame High School as basketball coach, dean of students and assistant principal.

Conover's resume also includes work as a financial advisor at Blunt Ellis and Loewi. He eventually retired from Wachovia Securities.

Conover served as QU Annual Fund chair with his brother, Joe, in 2004. He has served the community as a board member of John Wood Community College, GREDF, Quincy Notre Dame High School and Blessing Hospital.

"I believe you are the summation of your past experiences and different phases of your life," said Conover, who attended Illinois State University and graduated from Arizona State University with a bacheler's degree in history and a master's in guidance and counseling.

Brian McGee will succeed Conover, officially becoming QU's 24th president on July 1. McGee is finishing up his duties as executive vice president at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

Conover and McGee have talked regularly for the past six months, working to set up a seamless transition.

"We've become good friends," Conover said of McGee, who was named the next QU president in December 2018. "I'm very excited about the leadership he is bringing."