Innovative philanthropist and businessman Waite Phillips was born on January 19, 1883 on a farm near Conway, Iowa. After finishing school at 16, Waite and his identical twin Wiate set out to see the American West. For three years they trekked across the western states, working in such varied jobs as telegraph messenger, miner, road crew, and even mountain trapper. Their adventure ended when Wiate died in 1902 from a ruptured appendix. Bereft, Waite returned to bury his brother in Iowa.
Although lost without his twin, Waite began a new adventure—one of business. Waite attended business school and worked his way up in the Hawkeye Coal Company in Knoxville, Iowa. In Knoxville, Waite met Genevieve Elliott, the young woman he would later marry. In 1906, his older brothers Frank and L.E., co-founders of Phillips Petroleum, enticed Waite to travel to what would soon become the state of Oklahoma to help with their new oil ventures.
Eventually deciding to strike out on his own, Waite Phillips incorporated his various oil interests into the Waite Phillips Company, which succeeded beyond all expectations. In 1925, Waite Phillips sold his oil company for $25 million and began his next adventure—one of philanthropy.
Villa Philbrook in Tulsa, OK was donated to the city in 1938 by the Phillips Family.
In 1926, Waite and Genevieve hired architect Edward Buehler Delk to design two homes—Villa Philbrook in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Villa Philmonte near Cimarron, New Mexico—for themselves and their two children. The two beautiful residences share many similarities, although the Italianate Villa Philbrook was built on the outskirts of a rapidly growing city and the more Mediterranean-style Villa Philmonte is nestled in the expansive mountains of New Mexico.
Waite and Genevieve eagerly sought opportunities to enrich their communities. Whether to churches, hospitals, universities, or community funds, the Phillips family gave generously. In fact, after living in their homes for only eleven years, Waite and Genevieve made a decision that would change the lives of countless people: they decided to give their beloved homes away. The Phillips family donated Villa Philbrook to become an art museum for the community of Tulsa, and they gave Villa Philmonte and the Philmont Ranch to the Boy Scouts of America.
Along with over 90,000 acres of land, Villa Philmonte was donated to the Boy Scouts in 1941.
Today both Philbrook Museum of Art and Philmont Scout Ranch continue to serve vital roles in their communities and reflect the great foresight and enduring generosity of Genevieve and Waite Phillips
“The only things we keep permanently are those we give away.”