On the afternoon of Friday, January 20, 2011, the students, faculty, and staff of the History of Art department at the University of Michigan gathered in the Fine Arts Library to celebrate Phil Guilbeau's birthday. A graduate student of medieval art who came to history of art through theology, Phil died on December 21, 2011, near his family's home in Texas.
Phil's completed dissertation, newly printed and bound, was on display, as well as many of the Carthusian books he had ordered for the library throughout his research. Members of his dissertation committee and his friends spoke about his life and his work. These tributes were joined by others sent by mentors and friends who were unable to attend.
Below are excepts from the many tributes. Phil will be remembered for his kindness, sincerity, sense of humor, irreverence, faith, commitment to scholarship, and compassion.
"Phil was the best possible kind of scholar: passionate but never overzealous, knowledgeable but never intimidating."
"While I came to respect Phil in the classroom for his excellent scholarship and thoughtful engagement with a variety of art historical topics, it was outside of the classroom that I came to know Phil as the truly wonderful person that he was."
"Whenever he talked about his research, he did it passionately and with utter devotion. I was always impressed by the energy he invested in his studies."
"He was perhaps the most irreverent grad student I’ve ever had in a class – but also (paradoxically?) the most sincere, the most respectful, the most filled with wonder."
"His dissertation on El Paular was so far along on its way, and promised to be a launch point for further investigations by Phil within the discipline; now it must be a launch point and inspiration for others to pursue."
"Phil was one of the kindest, most generous and most supportive people I have ever known. When I think of Phil I think of encouragement, whether it was reassuring me that I speak “pleasing French,” that the grant-writing would pay off, or that I would be able to find costume dramas on Italian television. He never asked me to be anything more or anything less than myself."
"It was a privilege to teach him, to talk to him about anything under the sun, from the gumbo recipes of his childhood to the intricacies of Nicholas of Cusa’s theological metaphor of squaring the circle."
"Phil’s ability to see the beauty and goodness in objects was an outgrowth of his ability to see the beauty in all things, including and especially other people."