Philip C. Kirby grew up in Mullins, a small town located in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. As a youth, he played trumpet in the high school band and continued playing the instrument at the Greenbrier Military School. During his sophomore year, he transferred to the University of Alabama. Before he could complete his higher education, Kirby joined the Army Air Corps and trained as a gunner on the B-24, B-17, and B-29 bombers, but he did not see combat.
After the war, he was an accountant in the Budget Office of the State of West Virginia and attended evening classes at Morris Harvey College (later the University of Charleston), where, in 1949, he earned a degree in Business Administration with a major in Accounting. Later that same year, Kirby married Evelyn Ferrell of Charleston, West Virginia, and became a life insurance agent for Massachusetts Mutual. In 1953, the couple moved to Wheeling where they resided for 29 years. In 1982, Kirby retired as president of his company, Kirby and Associates, and he and Evelyn built a home and relocated to Easton, Maryland.
While in Wheeling, Kirby served on local boards including the First National Bank of Wheeling, Picoma Industries, Inc., John Dieckman and Sons, the J.B. Chambers Foundation, and Wheeling Hospital (where he was instrumental in creating a Women's Wellness Center). Kirby's distinguished professional career tells only half the story. His history of community work is long and impressive. An active member of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Easton, community service was a lifelong endeavor for Kirby. Reflecting on his deep concern for the well being of children, the disadvantaged, and young people seeking higher education, he served on the boards of Easton Day Care, Inc., Habitat for Humanity of Talbot County, Maryland, and the West Virginia Foundation of Independent Colleges. He was founder and president of Talbot Mentors, Inc., an organization serving local students from all walks of life.
Kirby received many awards and honors for his community service, as well as his professional achievements. In 1982, after 25 years as a member of the Insurance Industry’s Million-Dollar Roundtable, he qualified for the Top of the Table (representing the top one percent of life insurance agents in the world).
At the time of his death, Kirby was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Wheeling Jesuit University (WJU). He served on the WJU board for 18 years, spending the last 7 years of his board membership as chairman. A staunch Methodist, Kirby helped create an ecumenical governing board at the University, bringing together men and women of diverse races, faiths, and ethnic origin. In 1999, Kirby was the recipient of the WJU Ignatian Medal. This medal is considered the highest honor bestowed by the University, given to men and women whose works display faith in God, service to neighbors, and leadership in the community. He was also awarded the Clifford Lewis S.J. award by the University Alumni Association, granted to individuals exhibiting extraordinary service, contribution, and dedication to the University.
In further recognition of the contributions of both Philip and Evelyn Kirby, the University dedicated its newest dormitory in their honor in the spring of 2000.
Information compiled from:
The Easton Sunday Star, April 1, 2001
Wheeling Jesuit University Chronicle, Fall 200
Wheeling Jesuit University Chronicle, Summer 1999