Lecturers, staff, and students in Mahidol University International College (MUIC) knew Mr. Phillip Stiens as a quiet, soft-spoken and kind teacher and also an avid sportsman. It was thus a surprise when they learned of his sudden passing on February 2, 2019. Doctors at Siriraj Hospital later determined that the cause of death was liver abscess and peritonitis.
A graduate of the University College, Swansea in Wales, UK, Mr. Stiens obtained a Master of Science in Sports Management from the University of West Virginia.
He began teaching full-time in the English Studies Program of the Humanities and Language Division (HLD) on May 1, 2001. For almost two decades, he taught English courses along with PE classes including soccer and golf. He also served as Coordinator of the English Studies Resource Center.
“During the time that I came to know him as a colleague, I had come to respect his sense of professionalism not just as a fellow teacher but also as Coordinator of the English Studies Resource Center. The students he and our colleagues trained as tutors truly helped other students who were struggling with their academic studies,” said Asst. Prof. Analiza Perez-Amurao, HLD Chair. She added, “Day in and day out I would see him in the faculty room or down the hallway, waving a greeting as he quietly went about his way. I was confident that he was doing his job with efficiency and dedication.”
Mr. Roman Chirasanta, HLD’s Physical Education Program Director, who asked Mr. Stiens to teach soccer back in 2001, remembered him as an inspiring coach. “He spoke softly and was clear and precise in his directions. I feel at the time he was more of a father figure to his players; reliable, caring, and was able to dispense wisdom when needed,” Mr. Chirasanta said.
Mr. Gary Waddell, an instructor at the Preparation Center for English and Mathematics and a friend of Mr. Stiens for the past 11 years, said that Mr. Stiens “would often go down to Banglampoo after work to walk around the historic district, take a boat ride, and pick up Indian curry to take home in the evening.”
Mr. Waddell also gave a glimpse of Mr. Stiens as a family man: “On the weekends, Phillip would often drive his wife to the temple in Kanchanaburi or Ayutthaya so that she could make merit.”
And then there was his passion for sports.
According to Mr. Chirasanta, he and Mr. Stiens could talk sports for hours on end. “Name a sport and he knew something about it. We never talked about work; it was always about that weekend’s major sports tournament – no matter the sport. Then slowly but surely it always came back around to golf.”
The funeral service was held at the chapel of St. Peter Thammart Catholic Church on Phutthamonthon Road 1 on February 6, attended by scores of former and current MUIC colleagues, students and staff. The following day, he was laid to rest at the cemetery of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Sam Phran, Nakhon Pathom Province. He is survived by his wife Siriwan Stiens.
Mr. Stiens may be gone, but he is well-remembered. With news of his passing spreading in social media, fellow lecturers, staff, students and alumni expressed their grief and shared their recollections of him.
“I consider Phillip as a ‘quiet professional.’ No fuss, no drama,” Asst. Prof. Amurao said in her eulogy. “I think there were only a couple of instances when he approached me regarding some concerns he had. As the English Program Director then and later on as Chair of the Division, I did my best in helping him out and it seemed he was satisfied with the results because after he had thanked me, he went on and quietly resumed performing his tasks.”
Mr. Waddell said, “He was always in good spirits and never complained about anything. Phillip will always be an inspiration to me, and I will miss him dearly. Godspeed, Mr. Stiens.”
Mr. Chirasanta, who shared Mr. Stiens’ passion for golf, had this to say: “My most recent and best memory with Phillip was on our last golfing adventure in December 2018. Phillip was always the steady hand, smooth, a form-and-technique type of player that never did anything flashy but was incredibly consistent. I, on the other hand, was aggressive, always taking high-risk shots, played with a lot of emotion. Phillip had a way to calm my emotions, kept me balanced and focused. On this particular day, we both had terrible games. Nothing was working and, in a very rare instance, it was Phillip who became flustered. As we were walking together in the middle of our round, we both started laughing. Laughing at ourselves, for how mad we had gotten. I can’t describe the feelings but we both just knew. The remaining holes were fun and carefree. We never did regain our form but we did see the bigger picture and we just knew. The joy of being on the course was enough. I will forever miss my golf buddy.”