Artist’s Life-Changing Phone Call Leads to a Life-Changing Legacy


Phil Egan Self-Portrait in chiaroscuro

As a young artist new to the area, Egan couldn’t have known his call to Cañada College in the spring of 1971 would lead to a lifelong teaching career. “I ran out of money and needed a job,” explains the now-retired Egan with a laugh. “I had a list of colleges and universities in the Bay Area and had worked my way down to the C’s.”

Egan was surprised when the head of the art program answered his call. “As luck would have it, someone had just left a full-time position. I must have made an impression,” Egan says.

From the outset, Cañada also made an impression on Egan. “There were two high-flying instructors when I arrived,” he recalls. “They did class demonstrations in ways I had never seen. I had an MFA from Penn State and teaching experience, but they showed me how to share ideas and reach students.”  

Egan also enjoyed his interactions with students, whose enthusiasm was infectious. “Students were excited to be at Cañada and so was I. I knew I had to do my best work and keep up with my art,” says Egan.

Over the next 32 years, Egan shared his love of art with hundreds of students at Cañada. Egan is now retired, but only technically – his life’s work continues. He is still painting (he has been working on a series of wet-medium figural drawings for the past five years), and he is still inspiring Cañada students with the recently-established Elizabeth Egan Art Scholarship through ­­San Mateo County Community Colleges Foundation.


“Still Life with Mangos” by Phil Egan

Phil Egan teaching a "Form and Composition" class, 1990's.

Phil Egan teaching his “Form and Composition” class at Cañada in the 1990’s.



Named in memory of Egan’s mother, the scholarship encourages future students to pursue higher education and art. He says, “Today’s income inequality forces difficult choices on many students. The Foundation offers a path to Education for those who need it.” The Elizabeth Egan Art Scholarship will be awarded to Cañada students studying studio art, art history, and technical art.

The scholarship came about when Egan was faced last year with revising his living trust. He contacted the Foundation’s estate planning adviser, Phil Murphy, for help. “I knew very little about the role of the Foundation,” Egan says, but he was very pleased with the help he received. He says emphatically, “Phil Murphy all by himself is a great argument for doing this.”

Establishing a scholarship is a wonderful way to leave lasting, positive mark. Most of San Mateo County’s community college students must work while attending school to support themselves and their families. For them, scholarships can be the difference between an A and a C when work hours and study time conflict, the difference between a taking any job out of necessity and a pursuing a rewarding career, and the difference between graduating and dropping out.


“Eve with a Bosc Pear” by Phil Egan


“Portrait in Line” by Phil Egan

The new Elizabeth Egan Art Scholarship will change the lives of the next generation of art students and help support them to success. For Egan, the new Elizabeth Egan Art Scholarship represents his hope for the future. “I am delighted to be in a position to establish a scholarship in art at Cañada. My gift is a declaration of continuing faith that education is essential to the future of civilization.”


San Mateo Community Colleges Foundation is honored to list Phil Egan as a member of its Legacy Society. For Legacy Society information, contact Stephani Scott at 650-358-6871 or