Message Notes at Life Celebration of Dr. Phillip James (Jim) Doyle’s life (March 8, 2018)

By his son, Jeff Doyle

As the oldest child, I experienced my dad as someone with high expectations for excellence with a safety net of grace if I was unable to meet them. 

My 48 years with my father spurred me forward on a path that I think can be best summed up in 4 words. 

I. The first is Learn

Dad believed that the most important investment we can make in life is education.   

“Blessed are those who find wisdom; those who gain understanding” – Proverbs 3:13

Never stop learning.  Keep reading, listening, watching, trying. 

Dad taught me this and I teach my students this – one thing you could leave college with – love of learning.

Half of the specific knowledge you learn in 10 years will be irrelevant. 

But if you learn to love learning, you will always be ready for the next challenge.   

Dad modelled this by getting up at 5 a.m. every morning to read the Washington Post and Salisbury Daily Times

We also had books throughout the house and he was always reading at least one of them.

At dinner each night, after we asked the blessing, Laura and I would be expected to one question: What did you learn today? Our answers had to be specific, no “lots”, or “nothing”

He kept learning too – some of his many passions he loved learning more about included

  1. trees and plants
  2. genealogy
  3. bridge
  4. travel
  5. finances
  6. election boards
  7. golf
  8. carpentry and construction – including a beautiful addition to our house

These are all examples of my father never stopping learning.  Learn.

II. Teach.

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness  and soundness of speech.” Titus 2:7-8

Take what you have learned and share it with others.  And this is not teaching by talking at others. 

Dad hated it when speakers were not open to creating an interactive learning environment. 

One of Dad’s students wrote that “Dr. Doyle did not stand in front of our class and lecture, but would sit down at a table and carry on a discussion about the subject matter with us.  I had never before or since had a professor with such a rapport with a class as to be able to teach in this manner.”

Great teaching to him was rooted in good questions. 

Questions that made you think deeply and forced you to reflect and analyze in order to explore new solutions. 

At our house growing up, spankings and grounding were rare.  When we got in trouble we would need to first calm down in a chair.  Then we would meet with Dad and answer his questions. 

Why did we do what we did?  How could we avoid doing that again?  What are we doing to do to make it right? 

He loved sharing articles.  Growing up, he would mark articles in the paper every day for me to read. 

Once I left home, he kept sending articles to me for 30 years.  He’d send me articles on university management, personal finances, political wisdom, & house & car maintenance.  I think this was his way of trying to keep teaching me.  

He loved teaching others; whether that be at UMES, Boy Scouts, golf, etc.    

In college, when I became a biology major I thought it was because I wanted to do what my dad did so when I switched to a graduate degree in counseling I wondered if I had let him down by leaving science. 

It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that I realized that what got dad most excited was not science, but teaching his students to succeed in life.  The work calls I remember him taking at night were from students needing advice.

And this is how he interacted with his grandkids – by asking them questions about things that interested them and trying to engage with them on that level. 

In short, Dad was a teacher. Teach. 


“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Phillipians 2:3-4

I never saw Dad introduce himself as Dr. Doyle or use his position as a professor in an arrogant manner.    

Dad was always more interested in other people than talking about himself. 

Going on family trips with him typically resulted in a list of new friends and acquaintances. 

We would typically be at a table for 4 and he would be talking to the people behind us or next to us. 

Trust me, this could be frustrating, especially when you are teenager and your dad does not grasp acting cool. 

But image was not something Dad cared about.  To him, what you do for others is more important that how you look. 

This brings us to a second question he asked us at dinner each night… What did you do today to help someone else?

Dad knew what it was like to grow up poor, as the oldest of 7 children.  He had teachers encourage him to go to college and get his education.  He knew how hard it could be to dig out of poverty. 

And he believed that it took people, like those who helped him, helping the most needy.  

This is why he chose to volunteer most of his life.  But I think his love of the Democratic Party best embodied this. 

He knew that churches could not be the only source of bringing people out of poverty and that strong state and federal governments were needed to help the poor overcome hurdles facing them. Serve.


“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8

Step up.  Take initiative.  This was lived out, not spoken. 

This was the 10 years Troop 151 needed a Scoutmaster who would be present every Wednesday night and go on a camping trip with 11-17 year old boys every month. 

The man who camped for a week with us every summer and took 35 of us on a 10 day Adirondack canoe trip.

The man who never wanted to turn down his son’s request to play, so tossed the football, baseball, and learned to play basketball for hundreds of hours. 

This was one of the only parents to come to cross country meets, and not only watched the start but drove to mid point to cheer me on. 

The dad who went over the thought process behind many of my high school papers.

The man who believed so much in democracy he volunteered for years to help with elections. 

The man who loved his wife for 58 years and showed her by cleaning and caring for the house and taking care of her. 

The man who handwrote a letter each month to his grandchildren with an allowance, telling them they need to spend some, save some, and give some away.

My dad did not like to talk about what he was doing that was good.  He did not like to mention his faith when doing these things.  He just stepped up when needed and acted to make a difference.  Act. 

Overall message of my Dad’s life (in my opinion)

Learn.  Teach.  Serve.  Act. 

If you take the first letter of each of these words, and re-arrange them, it gives us an acronym that I hope we can use to remember my father.  Stand TAL.  S – serve, T- teach, A- act, and L for Learn. 

When my sister speaks next, she will add the second “L” to TALL, with the word Love.

My father stood tall.  He rose from humble beginnings to become a man respected and appreciated by many. 

And because he stood tall, we are able to stand on his shoulders, and ultimately stand even taller. 

While I know my family and I wish we could have more time with him, I also know that his lessons are an integral part of who I am. 

I won’t forget my father because my life is based around his teachings.  Every day I try to Stand Tall. 

The dictionary says that to Stand Tall means someone who believes that they are able to do anything. 

My life verse comes from Mark 9:23, in which Jesus is asked to have pity on someone and help them and he tells that “everything is possible for those who believe.”

Serve. Teach. Act. and Learn.  When we end the service today, every one of us will stand up.  When you do, stand tall. This would make my father happy.