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Jim Phipps Awarded VisionServe Alliance’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017

November 17, 2017

Jim Phipps (left), Bernadette Kappen, VisionServe Vice Chair, and Mark Ackermann, VisionServe Board Chair (right) Photo by VisionServe Alliance
Jim Phipps (left), Bernadette Kappen, VisionServe Vice Chair,
and Mark Ackermann, VisionServe Board Chair (right)
Photo by VisionServe Alliance


(NEW ORLEANS—November 7, 2017) In 2013, VisionServe Alliance’s board of directors created a new award for Lifetime Achievement. The expectation was that there would not be specific rules created or that this award would be presented annually. Instead, board members would make recommendations based on their knowledge of VisionServe Alliance member leaders who have achieved professionally or personally throughout their lives and/or careers. On November 7, 2017, VisionServe Alliance was pleased to honor two such members: Jim Phipps and Gidget Hopf. Previous recipients included Carl Augusto of the American Foundation for the Blind, June Mansfield of SightConnection, and Tom Miller of the Blind Veterans Association. 

Although it was impossible to surprise Jim Phipps with this award (because we had to ask him and his wife to fly from Mexico to receive it), VisionServe Alliance Board Chair Mark Ackermann had the honor and privilege to introduce Jim Phipps and touch on some of his greatest achievements. 

As a kid, Jim loved spending summers on Chebeague Island, off the coast of Maine, with his grandmother and great grandmother. He and his younger brother would go all over the island on bicycles. Nothing stopped Jim from joining in as one of the guys, and he has a few scars to show for his independent travel by bicycle. 

After graduating from Florida State University, he married his personal Lifetime Achievement, Giselle.  Together they headed off on an educational journey. Jim to the Wharton School of Business where he earned an MBA, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School where he earned his JD. Then to Minnesota for Giselle to attend graduate school.  

In 1987, the Phipps moved to Portland, Maine where Jim became an Associate at a prestigious law firm, eventually working his way up to a partnership with a specialty in advising nonprofit, tax-exempt organization clients on matters of tax and corporate compliance.  

During his 21-year tenure in law, the Phipps moved to Jim’s beloved Chebeague Island, which required a ferry ride to and from work each day, and their family grew with daughters Katie and Christy.  

In addition to attorney, husband, and dad, Jim also wore many charitable hats, spending many years in elective positions on the Cumberland Town Council, and on the Board and as Chairman of the Casco Bay Transit District. Jim also spent served several years on the Board of The Iris Network and as its chairman. When The Iris Network was sorely in need of leadership, the Board convinced Jim that his commitment and business expertise were what the organization desperately needed. After much thought, Jim resigned from the Board and insisted that the Board do a national search and only hire the best candidate for The Iris Network. They did, and he was named Executive Director on St Patrick's Day in 2008. 

Jim has a very strong work ethic and also a great compassion for others. He only agreed to leave his partnership with the law firm to become the Executive Director at the Iris Network, because he believed that blind and visually impaired individuals in Maine deserved better than they were getting. He always felt that he was lucky having a family who supported his independence and access to an excellent education. He wanted that and more for others dealing with vision loss. 

So, in addition to improving The Iris Network’s state-wide service delivery system, he also grew The Iris Network’s budget to $3 Million, improved legislative relationships, served on VisionServe’s board, and was instrumental in acquiring an establishment grant that allowed The Iris Network to remodel a three-story building, which he oversaw most details in planning and construction. This building is now home to the agency and a new residential rehabilitation center for eligible, working-age people who are blind or visually impaired, who come from across the country to gain the skills needed to return to or join a competitive workforce. 

As you can imagine, Jim is beloved in the state of Maine and beyond, having mentored and supported the careers of many professionals in many fields including legal, nonprofit, and visual impairment. Jim also enjoys several hobbies, including travel, especially cruising, and gardening. Jim is an aficionado of good music, enjoying the symphony, the opera and also Broadway musicals. Jim retired in the summer of 2017, but still supports the Iris Network as a consultant from his retirement home in Mexico. 

When asked about her husband, Giselle, Jim’s wife of 38 years, told us, “I know what a strong, caring, decent man he is. He is also a very humble man whom you will never find bragging on his own accomplishments. He gets embarrassed when others brag about him.” 

VisionServe Alliance is honored to present Jim Phipps with the 2017 VisonServe Alliance Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations Jim!

 

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