Judge Rob Philyaw (’95, MBA ’97)
Judge Rob Philyaw is the product of CBU’s evening program for adult students, which made it possible for him to obtain his bachelor’s degree. He began his college career at Motlow State Community College but didn’t do very well because he worked full time as soon as he turned 17, and a college degree was not nearly as high on his priority list as becoming the youngest store manager for Red Food stores. When he was 25, he and his wife moved to Memphis — where she was attending medical school at the University of Tennessee.
“We had no money, but I was able to get a really good job as a grocery buyer because of my experience, despite not having a degree. When I began CBU in the fall of 1991, my memory is that I only had 15 credit hours that would transfer. But I was determined to get my degree before I had to start calling my wife Dr. Honey. It required attending two classes four nights a week, but I reached my goal — only because my graduation in 1995 was a couple weeks before hers!”
Rob worked full-time as a wholesale grocery buyer at Malone & Hyde and as a regional manager for Fort Howard for the four years that he was enrolled in undergraduate classes at CBU.
“My first success at CBU — and a fun memory — was a Speech class early on where we were asked to make a speech about an object,” he recalls. “I chose the umbrella, worked on the speech more than I probably should have, sprinkled in humor and due respect for the umbrella, and I delivered it quite well to a laughing Brother and class. I received an A in the class.”
After earning his BS in Business Administration in 1995, and still in the custom of working during the day and attending school at night, he enrolled in the MBA program that fall and graduated with his master’s degree in 1997. In 1998, he enrolled in the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis and obtained his law degree in 2001, having served as editor of the Tennessee Journal of Practice & Procedure and receiving the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence and the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award. He and his family moved to Chattanooga, where he practiced law until 2013, when he was appointed Judge of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court, presiding over seven full-time courtrooms.
Rob has been married since 1988 to Dr. Kathy C. Philyaw, a pediatrician, and they make their home in Signal Mountain, TN. Their son Ben is an officer with the Chattanooga Police Department, and daughter Katie is a law student at Samford University.
In 2015, Legal Aid of East Tennessee awarded Judge Philyaw the Chief Justice William M. Barker Equal Access to Justice Award in recognition of his significant contribution to advancing the cause of access to justice in Tennessee. He was also awarded the McCain-Abernathy Memorial Award by the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Law Judges in 2019. He was appointed to a three-year term on the Tennessee Commission for Children and Youth in 2019, and he was appointed to chair the Commission in 2021. He also serves as secretary/treasurer of the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Law Judges and as president-elect of the Chattanooga Bar Association. He is often a guest lecturer at colleges and universities as well as at schools of all ages and numerous civic groups. He is an advocate for the advocates who work with families, children, and youth, is very active in the Point Church at Signal, and serves on the board of Tennessee Youth Courts.
Professor Ben Doddridge, who I had in undergraduate classes and in the masters’ program, left an impact on me. He not only taught academic principles but had great stories, life lessons, and challenges that inspired. He was a great mind and a greater heart. He would say to take a different route on your commute, listen to a radio station that you don’t know, read a book outside of your normal interests, etc. He encouraged us to always be inquisitive, to be thankful, and to always look around us at the wonder of things that we might pass every day but not fully appreciate.