Thomas Phillips (educational benefactor)

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Thomas Phillips (1760 – 30 June 1851), was an educational benefactor, a founder of St David's College, Lampeter, and the founder of Llandovery College in Wales.[1]

Phillips had been born in London, to parents from Radnorshire. He completed part of his education in Wales. He became apprenticed to an apothecary at Hay-on-Wye, and qualified as a surgeon in London in 1780. He then joined the Royal Navy serving for two years, mainly in Canada. After leaving the navy, he joined the East India Company and spent much of his career in India, carrying on business as well as working as a surgeon. While in India, he set up some small libraries in order to further the education of soldiers serving there. He bought an estate on the island of St Vincent, and, when he returned to London in 1817, he "spent the rest of his days in acts of charity, kindness and hospitality".

Phillips was a major benefactor of St David’s College, Lampeter, and this led to his founding Llandovery College in 1847, after the college authorities had refused his offer to endow a Welsh professorship at Lampeter. Llandovery College was founded under the name of the Welsh Educational Institution, with a donation of £4,666 and a library of 7,000 books given by Phillips. It is not certain whether he spoke the Welsh language himself, but he had a major concern for its survival, and specified that it be taught regularly and systematically at the college, and also "for some portion of the day" to be the sole medium of communication and instruction. The foundation stone was laid on 13 December 1849.

During the course of his life, Phillips donated over 22,000 volumes to St David's College, Lampeter, (the "Phillips Collection"), including a collection of 169 religious tracts.