It is with deep sadness that we share news of the sudden passing of Phyllis Watt Ingersoll last weekend. Phyllis was the only daughter of Donald Watt who founded EIL in 1932.
In a personal tribute to Phyllis, Kevin Hickey, CEO of EIL Intercultural Learning wrote:
“Phyllis was truly unique! So proud of her Dad, so proud of the Experiment in International Living (EIL) which her Dad founded to promote international peace and friendship in the 1930s when the world lived in the shadows of war. When her Dad died she took on the role of “Encourager in Chief” and at times of global turmoil and unrest kept reminding us of the importance of building international understanding, co-operation and peace across the world through exchange programmes aimed at building a better world one friendship at a time.
One of the last times I saw Phyllis was here in Cork for the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of EIL in Ireland in 2014. Her energy and passion for everything EIL were as strong as ever. I never met her father, but through Phyllis, and her husband Jerry, I learned so much about Donald. It was a privilege to know her and to hear her stories. And she had many stories: not just about her time with her parents on homestay in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s in Europe and in Mexico; but the stories about her time in Ghana with her husband Jerry as “Peace Corp” volunteers are most vivid in my mind as I write this. Always full of curiosity and eager to learn, Phyllis always found a way to escape from the crowd. Some time later you found her sitting and chatting with local people as if they were friends for life. I can easily imagine Phyllis as a confidante of her local village chief when she lived in Ghana. Donald was a successful disruptor in the 1930s/1940s/1950s challenging stereotypes and the old ways of looking at the world. Phyllis had the same restless spirit. She was truly her father’s daughter. Even if the times were different.
I first met Phyllis in Boston in the early 1990s. I was young then. I was new to the Experiment (EIL) world and my credentials were not strong. But Phyllis had time for me. Status and rank were not important to her. If she saw the spark in your eye, then she invested in you. She was truly egalitarian. Her’s was a life, very well lived.
I will miss her. But not half as much as Jerry will miss her. The bond and the love they had for each other was something very special”.
An article Phyllis wrote about her father in 2000: