Phillip H. Loughlin

Year of Graduation: 
Phillip H. Loughlin accepts the Founder's Day Award

Alum establishes fund in memory of Exonian and friend.

Philip Loughlin III ’57; ’76 (Hon.) treasures connections, especially the friendships he formed with classmates and teachers during his time at Exeter. Those relationships encouraged him to organize and attend alumni events for years after he graduated, volunteer with Exeter’s General Alumni Association, and serve six years on the Board of Trustees, where his goal was to strengthen bonds between the Academy and alumni from around the world. For his extensive community efforts, Loughlin received the school’s Founder’s Day Award in 1996. 

One of his most enduring friendships was with Polly MacMullen ’76, an instructor in modern languages and a girls lacrosse coach. The two met in 1991 at her 15th Exeter reunion. “I was struck by how many interesting experiences she had — traveling around the world to France and New Zealand,” Loughlin recalls. “She was a pleasure to talk to.” 

When MacMullen passed away in 2019, Loughlin wanted to remember her in a meaningful way. Inspired by her passion for literature, he established a permanent fund in her memory: the Priscilla (Polly) MacMullen, Class of 1976, Library Fund. His gift supports Overdrive, the Academy Library’s new digital reading platform, offering the Exeter community online access to a range of ebooks and audiobooks, from the classics to bestsellers. “It’s state of the art,” Loughlin says. “I think it’s a perfect way to remember Polly.”

Loughlin’s own lifelong fascination with books and libraries began at Exeter. “My English teacher, Jack Heath, introduced me to interesting novels,” Loughlin says. “We read a lot of Dickens and Shakespeare. I was particularly drawn to Joseph Conrad’s "Heart of Darkness." I was fascinated with that book. Even today I reread some of the literature we read in that class.”

The former Davis Library became a draw for the young reader. “I’d never seen a library that large,” Loughlin says. “I was just pulled into it. I’d go there to do research, but I discovered reading fiction for entertainment.” 

After graduating from Exeter, Loughlin attended Cornell University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in economics and later an MBA. (He jokes that his most lasting connection to Cornell was meeting his late wife, Caroline.) He went on to become an officer in the U.S. Navy Medical Service Corps and then earned a doctorate in business from Saint Louis University. He entered academia in 1976 and taught economics and finance at Maryville University for 23 years. During that time, he also served on the board of directors of the St. Louis Mercantile Library. 

After retiring from Maryville, Loughlin delved into Chinese history, an interest sparked during his honeymoon, when he and Caroline toured East Asia. He transformed his academic interest into a learning opportunity for Exeter students and faculty. While on the board of directors of the East-West Center Foundation in Honolulu, Loughlin worked with the center to organize programs bringing Exeter faculty to East Asia. “It was so successful we did a subsequent trip to Korea and Japan together with other high schools,” he says. An authority on Hong Kong and Macao, he’s lectured about Hong Kong and co-authored several scholarly articles on Chinese economics and geography. 

Through the years, Loughlin stayed up to date with changes at the Davis Library, and then the Class of 1945 Library. He and Caroline contributed to the library’s purchase of Biblion, a computerized catalog, in the early 1990s. “Being exposed to such a wonderful facility and the lifelong friendships I made with classmates and alumni like Polly — that’s what has made Exeter so important to me,” he says. “I hope, through my work over the years, that I helped alumni connect with Exeter the way I did. ... I hope I’ve had some lasting effect.”

—Debbie Kane

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the winter 2020 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.