IN MEMORIAM: Joyce Phillips Austin, D.D. '04


Attorney Joyce Phillips Austin, D.D. honoris causa 2004 died March 21, 2016 at the age of 92. She was the former Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and one of the first African Americans to work in key government positions in New York state and New York City, as well as a former trustee for The General Theological Seminary, She worked on several civil rights campaigns and initiatives and was also active in the Democratic Party, where she served on national committees. Austin dedicated countless hours to The Episcopal Church at the national and local levels. She was a longtime member of St. Philip's Church in Harlem and was a consultant to their vestry. She was active in the life of the Diocese of New York serving on the Venture Fund, Diocesan Council, as a deputy to General Convention, and on the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church. In 1983 Bishop Paul Moore, Jr. awarded her the Bishop’s Cross.

Austin was one of the first women elected as a vestryman of Trinity Church, where she was active in Outreach and the Trinity Grants Program and in 1987 served on the task force recommending Trinity’s response to apartheid, playing an instrumental role in the church’s decision to divest a significant portion of the church’s then overall stock portfolio from companies that had businesses and ties in South Africa.

A graduate of Hunter College and Fordham Law School, Austin spent two years working as attorney-advisor in the New York City Office of Price Stabilization before going into private practice with her father, former Parole Commissioner, Fitzgerald Phillips. In 1954, while in private practice, Austin worked on a campaign to introduce a bill into city council to bar organizations with discriminatory membership policies from parading on city streets.

In June 1956, she was appointed executive secretary to the New York Woman’s Council, an advisory arm of the State Commerce Department. In 1957, she was appointed Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the State Department of Commerce, the first African-American to receive such a key post. In 1959 she was named assistant to New York City Mayor, Robert F. Wagner, and was selected as chairman of the New York State “operation support” program to back Kennedy’s program in Congress. During this time she was a member of the state Democratic Committee’s Public Affairs Committee and was chosen to serve on the Democratic National Convention’s committee on credentials.

In 1968 Austin was appointed Assistant Director of the Sheltering Arms Children’s Service. In 1974 she was elected Executive Vice President of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. In 1978 she was awarded CCNY’s John H. Finley Medal for "distinguished service to the people of the City of New York."

Austin was active in congregational life for fifty years. She was predeceased by her husband, Rodman Whitman Austin. She is survived by her sister, Dr. Mildred Phillips, and her niece, Tippi Brooke Phillips, of New York. Services were held at Trinity Wall Street on March 29, 2016.