By Amanda Earp
Copy Desk Chief
Described by her colleagues as smart, funny and laid back, Dr. Phyllis Tippit brings experience and knowledge to the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core. Tippit, who has a doctorate in geology and is a dissertation away from having a doctorate in Old Testament, teaches everything from literature and media to science and religion for the BIC.
Dr. Jason Whitlark, assistant professor for the BIC, said Tippit is versatile, knowledgeable and a “lover of learning.”
After receiving her first bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Texas at Austin, Tippit found out she was pregnant with her first child and followed her husband to Odessa. It was there that Tippit received her bachelor’s degree in literature from the University of Texas Permian Basin. After this degree, Tippit moved to Dallas around the opening of the University of Texas at Dallas, where she received her doctorate in geology.
“I opened new branches wherever I was,” Tippit joked in reference to attending multiple University of Texas branches.
With her geology degree in hand, Tippit went to work in the oil business for 14 years. Over these years she worked as a palentologist, explorationist, director of technical service and offshore in the Gulf.
Tippit said she was always active in the prayer ministry of her church.
“I got really involved in that and took a class which isn’t so popular anymore called the Henry Blackaby course,” she said. “In the process of that I felt really, really called to ministry.”
Around this time, Tippit said, the gas industry was going through huge layoffs. After speaking with her boss, she arranged for a layoff and severance pay.
“My husband thought it would see me through a year of seminary, but it saw me through three,” Tippit said. “I really felt that was the right thing to do.”
And just like that, Tippit was back to school at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary working toward her Master of Arts in Old Testament Studies. Tippit then taught at Houston Baptist University and worked on her church’s staff.
When her husband passed away, her two children were in Waco. She decided to join them to work on her doctorate in Old Testament.
“I never did write my dissertation. I did my prelim, so I’m all but dissertationed in Old Testament,” she said.
Tippit, who has been at Baylor since 1999, initially taught Hebrew and some religion classes at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary. She then made her way to teaching for the BIC.
“I make a really good BIC person because BIC is interdisciplinary, so I have probably taught more BIC classes than anybody else,” she said.
Tippit said she loves teaching it all.
“I just love learning about things,” she said. “And I love making connections about things. So for example, when I’m teaching social work it’s so cool to see the connections of what is happening in social world and it’s influence on biblical thought and especially ethical thought.”
Tippit, a supporter of the idea that science and religion can mix, has taught the science and religion capstone for five years.
“I would have never said that this would be my role,” Tippit said. “In fact when I started seminary, I assumed that science was gone, that I would never deal with that again.”
Throughout her life, whether it was in college, the oil business or teaching religion, Tippit often found herself as the one of the only women in her field.
Tippit was the first woman to teach in the Christianity department at Houston Baptist University.
“People would meet me on campus and say, ‘Oh, you’re the woman.’ I was like, ‘Last time I looked I was,” Tippit said with a smile.
Although she doesn’t consider herself a boundary breaker, her colleagues do.
Sharon Conry, senior lecturer in the BIC, said she has worked with Tippit for about seven years.
“She is challenging stereotypes and reservations about women in the world and work force,” Conry said when asked about Tippit working in male-dominated workplaces. “She accepted the challenges and overcame them.”