Phyllis J. Peterson Washington, raised in Great Falls, Montana, received her B.A. in Education from the University of Montana in 1964. She taught elementary school in Missoula for several years, and later employed her talent as an interior decorator and antiquarian, owning PJ’s Interiors in Missoula. Her current business, Phyllis Washington Antiques/Maison Felice, is located in Palm Desert, California, and is well known across the country for its 20,000 square feet of one-of-a-kind antiques.
Phyllis’ interest in education led to the popular Cultural Lecture Series held at Maison Felice. Phyllis serves as chairperson of the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation. The Foundation opened its doors in 1988 to better the human condition by supporting a broad spectrum of worthy organizations to give people the tools to enhance the quality of their lives and to benefit society as a whole. Phyllis also has an interest in the arts, and currently serves as the vice-chair of the National Committee for the Performing Arts of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Phyllis has served on the national board of Young Life, a nondenominational ministry for young people, since 2002. In 1997, Phyllis and her husband Dennis donated the 65,000 acre Muddy Creek Ranch in Antelope, Oregon to Young Life and it remains the largest Young Life camp in the nation, serving over 7,000 youth each summer during “the best week of their lives.”
Phyllis has a passion for helping young people become the best version of themselves. She serves as the chair of the Dennis Washington Leadership Scholarship Selection Committee, a partnership with the Horatio Alger Association to award graduate scholarships to individuals who have overcome significant adversity and show strong leadership potential.
Phyllis devotes personal time to University of Montana fundraising efforts, having served several terms on the UM Foundation Board of Trustees. She chaired a record-setting UM capital campaign, a five-year effort for which she received UM’s 1999 Neil S. Bucklew Presidential Service Award. In 2009 Phyllis was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Education from UM.
Phyllis was instrumental in construction of the Phyllis J. Washington Education Center at the University of Montana, designed to train educators in the latest technologies and methods. In 2011, the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education at UM was renamed in recognition of her lifelong support for education.