Feb. 20, 2011
CHICAGO – On Sunday, DePaul University officially changes the name of McGrath Arena, located in the Sullivan Athletics Center on the Lincoln Park Campus to the “McGrath-Phillips Arena.”
The arena’s name change is to honor Joni Phillips, a 1982 DePaul University graduate who is the most generous benefactor in DePaul athletic history.
"Joni's gifts to DePaul Athletics over the years have been a shining example of one generation passing it on to the next,” DePaul’s director of athletics Jean Lenti Ponsetto said.
“Most impressive is her humility in sharing her message of the impact her DePaul education has had on her life and her career. We are awesomely grateful for her gifts which have directly benefited hundreds of student-athletes past, present and future."
Phillips will be honored during halftime of today’s BIG EAST Conference women’s basketball showdown between No. 10/11 DePaul and No. 18/18 Georgetown.
“I couldn’t be prouder or more humble,” Phillips said. “I’m still in shock.
“Never did I imagine almost 30 years ago walking the hallways of DePaul that I would be honored with having my name on anything but a term paper.
“We have such a terrific women’s basketball team, and I hope my name up there inspires the players as much as they inspire me.”
She is a self-made, Horatio Alger success story who went from a South Side kid from a family of 10 growing up in the blue-collar Back of the Yards community to the owner of a multi-million dollar business.
Phillips has bought rings for DePaul teams that have won conference championships or competed in the NCAA tournament. She helped refurbish the locker rooms at Allstate Arena and has contributed to endowed scholarships.
Acknowledging Phillips’ generosity, the athletic director’s suite in the Sullivan Center is named after her. The balcony in McGrath-Phillips Arena is named after her parents, Roman and Josephine Nowakowski.
On Jan. 23rd, Phillips was inducted into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame as the 2011 recipient of the Dr. Robert Hamilton Special Service Award.
“I appreciate what DePaul did for me,” Phillips said in an interview leading up to the induction. “I give back because I just love DePaul. Everywhere I go, it’s DePaul.
“DePaul has brought me so many memories and friendships. Every spare dime I have, I try to send it to DePaul. I don’t need much.
“When I’m gone, DePaul deserves it. They’re my family. I’ve named DePaul in my living trust.”
Before attending DePaul, Phillips went to Morton College for two years and earned an associate’s degree in Nursing.
Morton College is in the process of nominating Phillips for the 2011 Illinois Community College Trustees Association Distinguished Alumnus Award.