February 16th: Commissioner Philipson, Collecting Pieces of History
By Jasmine Bisheh, Education Intern
“I’m an ordinary man that wants to make sure extraordinary things are not lost,” says Commissioner Gregg Philipson, whose birthday is today.
Commissioner Philipson is originally from Utica, New York. He holds degrees in both Finance and Marketing from the University of Buffalo (New York), but has lived in Austin for 25 years. Before retirement, he worked in the technology and security industries for 40 years. As a competitive marathon runner, Commissioner Philipson has completed several races, including both the Boston and Austin marathons. These races mark just a few of his many noteworthy accomplishments.
Elie Wiesel (L) with Michelle and Gregg Philipson
Commissioner Philipson is also a collector. He has a passion for using artifacts and exhibitions to further Holocaust education, which first developed through a personal connection. Several of his family members have served in the US military, including his uncle who died in World War II. His family never received many details surrounding his death, and it left a painful void in the memory of both his grandparents and mother. By an influential military contact and a stroke of luck, Commissioner Philipson was able to obtain numerous letters and documents pertaining to his uncle’s service. He then organized the pieces into a collection and his lifelong dedication to collecting began.
Commissioner Philipson addresses soldiers at Ft. Hood (TX)
Philipson spent five years setting up an exhibition that showcased collections of political cartoonist Arthur Szyk, which led to his role as an advisory board member at the Holocaust Museum Houston. It was through this involvement with the museum that he became a part of the THGC when Governor Perry appointed him in 2012.
Throughout his tenure, Commissioner Philipson has continued to prioritize social engagement as one of the most important aspects of being on the Commission. Being able to reach wider audiences about the message of fighting hate and apathy gives him a sense of pride. The Commission has opened doors for him to conduct speaking engagements at a variety of locations. He has spoken to audiences at high schools, universities, home school organizations, museums, military bases, and Holocaust centers, and is constantly reaching out to the community to focus attention on the destruction of people’s lives both in the past and present.
However, Commissioner Philipson’s work amounts to more than speaking engagements. He uses his talent for collecting to further Holocaust education. He has organized many exhibitions showcasing a variety of Holocaust and World War II military artifacts. He loans collections out to be shared with any interested audience, whether it’s a large Holocaust museum or a smaller, local school. Presently, the THGC staff is engaged in a digitization project that will make Commissioner Philipson’s artifacts accessible in Texas classrooms. To the commissioner, the value in collecting is “being able to show people material that must be seen.” His priceless collections of the past are crucial to Holocaust education and the sharing of a rich history we must never forget.
Both photographs are published with permission from Gregg Philipson.Tags: gregg philipson exhibit military austin utica university of buffalo arthur szyk holocaust artifacts holocaust thgc texas holocaust and genocide commission