Philip Thornton Clover, known affectionately as “Phil,” “Phil Daddy,” “Unckie” and “Guppy” by various family members and friends, died on February 20, 2018 at his home in Chapel Hill, NC. A man of extraordinary intellectual gifts and discipline, he rose to the highest levels of corporate finance while remaining grounded by his love for family, service to community, wry humor, and delight for life’s simple pleasures. He was 82.
Phil was born in New York City on October 1, 1935 to Philip Petrie Clover and Margaret Thornton Clover. Six weeks after Phil’s birth, the family moved to Hamburg, Germany, where his father worked as a petroleum specialist for Standard Oil/Socony-Vacuum until the start of World War II. In the summer of 1939, upon receiving a warning from the American consulate to leave Germany, the family, which now included Phil’s sister Margaret (born 1937), moved back to New York after a brief stay in Madrid.
In 1942, Phil’s father was hired by the U.S. State Department to serve in Buenos Aires. The family lived there for two years, followed by short stays in Cuba and Guatemala—all of which nurtured Phil’s lifelong love of the Spanish language. After a brief return to Germany, where the State Department reassigned his father, in 1948 the Clovers settled in Scarsdale, NY, where Phil graduated from Scarsdale High School. He earned a varsity letter in track, was active in his church youth group and became an Eagle Scout, an achievement he held dear.
Phil attended Yale University and graduated in 1957 with a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Administration, a degree that combined his keen analytical skills with his love for gadgets and figuring out “the way things work.” He would often joke with faux modesty about how his engineering curriculum had limited his cultural education, yet he could instantly recite Shakespeare or discuss the subtleties of light in an Impressionist painting.
After college Phil was accepted into General Electric’s Financial Management Program, for which he traveled to GE facilities around the country. One of these was the locomotive plant in Erie, PA, where he met Denise Dennis, his bride of 57 years. A quiet romantic leavened by practicality, Phil proposed after a six-week courtship, and after offering Denise a ring offered her his financial portfolio to review so she could be assured he’d support her adequately. They married at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Erie on July 30,1960, one month before Phil enrolled in Stanford University’s MBA program in management and finance.
After Stanford—and the birth of their first child, Greayer, in 1961—Phil continued with General Electric for the next 23 years. Upon completing the company’s three-year Manufacturing Management Program, he worked as a traveling auditor out of Schenectady, NY, from 1965-69; then in various positions in budgeting, forecasting, and financial analysis at Switchgear Products in Philadelphia (1973-75), Circuit Protective Devices and Distribution Equipment in Plainville, CT (1975-81), Wiring Devices in Warwick, RI (1981-82), and Mobile Communications in Lynchburg, VA (1982-85).
Along the way, sons Edward and Samuel were born in 1965 and 1969, respectively. As the three boys grew up, they often wondered exactly what their father did for a living. Phil responded by calling himself a “bean counter,” which didn’t really clear things up. Nevertheless, the sons absorbed their father’s work ethic and dedication to family. While Phil worked long hours, he also found time to take his sons on camping trips, ski weekends, canoeing adventures, and hikes—mostly through Boy Scouts. There were also family vacations to Disney World and to historic sites like Boston, Philadelphia and Williamsburg, VA, which reflected his fascination with American history. Phil also instilled in his children a playful curiosity about the world, exhibited by his love for puzzles, electronics, everyday physics problems, adventure stories, Broadway musicals, and a lasting Christmas tradition of placing clues on wrapped gifts—not so the recipient could guess the contents, but so the giver could display one’s intelligence and wit.
In 1985, Phil left GE to work briefly for ITT Corporation in northern New Jersey, and then served for nine years (1988-97) as Vice President of Finance and Operations for Western Union North America (later First Data Corporation). There he was responsible for all financial functions in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. He ended his career by founding Clover Consulting Company (1998-99), for which he provided financial expertise primarily for his immediate former employer. In his off time, he and Denise enjoyed their home in Ridgewood, NJ, where they had lived for 15 years.
Phil formally retired in 2000, but his post-professional life was rich and full. In 2001 he and Denise moved to their beloved Governors Club home in Chapel Hill, which they had designed and built over several years. They immediately immersed themselves into the community by attending meals and activities at the club house, playing golf with friends, competing in bridge games, and exploring the cultural offerings of the Triangle area. They also found a spiritual home at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Durham.
In his final years Phil volunteered for many Governors Club-related groups, and also joined an organization that helped underprivileged area residents complete their tax returns. This built on a lifelong record of community service and charitable giving, from serving as deacon and on stewardship committees of various churches to perhaps his proudest volunteer effort: serving in the 1990s as a Trustee of the Ridgewood Public Library, where he helped guide that institution through a $4 million renovation and expansion, almost doubling its size, which was completed in 1998.
In a life full of achievements, shortly before his death Phil said his greatest achievement is his family. He is survived by the love of his life, Denise; sons Greayer (m. Anne Yanagi), Ted (m. Beth Van Wagner), and Sam; grandchildren John, Jenna and Juliana; and sister Margaret Clover Stillman. A memorial service will be held on Friday, April 6, 2:00pm at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 3639 Old Chapel Hill Rd., Durham, NC 27707.