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Phyllis Roberts Supports Critters, Plants and West Hills College

Phyllis Roberts  Supports Critters, Plants and West Hills College

She'll admit to liking "critters and plants" and on the flip side, she'll tell you she dislikes dirty streets in her town and weeds in her flowers. She'll get upset with people and causes that stray from the truth, but will be all smiles on topics that include canaries, camellias and Coalinga College.

In her own backyard aviary, positioned among flowers and plants of all kinds, she keeps "about 200" canaries and other songbirds and even tends roses outside the fence, in the alley.

In her heart, to hear her tell it, even though her teaching degrees are from Fresno State, she's a Coalinga College backer.

Phyllis, retired since 1992, puts her considerable energy and resources into beautifying the college to make it "like it was" during the time she was a public school teacher starting in the 1950s, a time when oil brought flowers and civilization to the dusty community.

The woman with hair so white it almost disappears in the bright spring sunshine came to town in 1950 to teach and soon joined one of the founding families when she married Bill Roberts, a member of the ranching community, in 1952. The couple lived in Jacilitos Canyon, west of town, for five years.

"When we moved to town to this house on California Street in 1960, there were roses and sweet peas growing up the walls of my school across the street. There were a number of gardeners to keep everything looking beautiful because the school had so much money. I had a bunch of flowers on my desk each Monday morning.

"I've seen the schools and town when they were beautiful," she smiled. "And the college was beautiful then too. Then it was awful.

"When my children, Victor and Marc, graduated from high school in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn't even consider having them go to Coalinga College. They had closed the dorms and closing the college completely would have been the next step," she frowned at the thought.

"Now, it's getting better - closer to where it was -- and I want to help make it even better."

And better to Phyllis Roberts means backing with her back and bankbook. She recently made a healthy donation of $20,000 to help with the renovation of the college library. She has established an endowed scholarship fund that will offer a $500 per year scholarship to a West Hills College Coalinga student in perpetuity.

While most would agree that such gifts would be enough, Phyllis' donations don't stop with money - she feels beautification projects are just as important and she isn't afraid to ask for help from her Coalinga peers.

With the backing of the Coalinga Women's Club, the lady who loves flowers has ramrodded several beautification projects on campus including the President's Rose Garden.

"We got a $3,000 donation from the Coalinga Community Foundation, and with donated roses, we were able to renovate an area we call the President's Rose Garden. When that part of the campus was done, we had some money left over for other projects," she said.

As a result of her efforts, the campus of West Hills College Coalinga is now a showplace and the students will benefit for years to come. Her spirit of philanthropy is strong and her commitment to Coalinga is unwavering. There is no doubt that Coalinga is a better place because of Phyllis Roberts.