Who is Jim Phillips Northwestern?
North West Athletic Director Jim Phillips was appointed acc commissioner on Monday.
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Phillips, who has led Northwestern’s athletic department since April 2008, will replace John Swofford, who will step down as ACC commissioner in June after 24 years leading the conference.
“Jim is highly respected during college athletics and knows the feat inside and out,” Swofford said in a statement. “As I have said many times in the past, being an athletic director before sitting in this chair is a huge plus, and that will serve him well. Jim will do a great job and I will be here to assist with the transition as much, or little, as necessary. I’m excited for Jim, and excited about the ACC. “
Phillips has had strong support from Big Ten athletic directors to become that league’s commissioner after Jim Delany retired in January. But big ten presidents and chancellors instead went with Kevin Warren, chief executive of the Minnesota Vikings, who had a difficult first year leading the conference because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Phillips led several major initiatives at Northwestern, including the $270 million Walter Athletics Center, the lakeside headquarters of the school’s football team, and other programs. He also led the late renovation of the Welsh-Ryan Arena and an independent facility for basketball programs. Phillips also held several important leadership positions with NCAA groups, including the inaugural chairman of the Division I board from 2015 to 2017.
“Jim is one of the most talented athletic administrators in the country and uniquely qualified to successfully and seamlessly take over the helm of the ACC,” ACC board chairman Kent Syverud of Syracuse University said in a statement. “Over the course of nearly 13 years, Jim has elevated and consolidated Northwestern’s position as an outstanding Power 5 athletic program. Northwestern’s ascension into the world of intercollegiate athletics is a testament to Jim’s vision, leadership, and fundamental dedication to student-athlete success. The ACC is fortunate to have someone of Jim’s calibre and integrity lead the conference at this crucial time in interlinked athletics.
Northwestern won two Big Ten West Division titles and four bowl games during Phillips’ tenure, and the men’s basketball team made its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2017.
Prior to Northwestern, Phillips worked as athletic director at Northern Illinois for four years. Although he never worked at the ACC, he spent time as an athletic director associated with Notre Dame before the school attached to the conference in all sports except football.
Phillips was led by Duke athletic director Kevin White, working for him at both Notre Dame and Arizona State. A 1990 Illinois graduate, Phillips also spent time in the Tennessee athletic department.
James J. Phillips became Northwestern’s 21st director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation on April 14, 2008, bringing with him a Division I-level success record and a commitment to the values Northwestern has always maintained in collegiate athletics. Four years into his term, Northwestern President Morton Schapiro elevated Phillips to the position of vice president of the Combe family for athletics and leisure.
One of 10 children of a middle-class family and originally from the Portage Park neighborhood and Our Lady of Victory Parish on Chicago’s northwest side, Phillips proved to be the perfect choice to lead Northwestern’s 19-sport program in the nation’s #3. Market. Its deep Windy City roots and family orientation are an integral part of its basic philosophy of providing student-athletes with a “world-class experience” that allows them to thrive academically, socially and athletically.
Chicago’s Phillips Fitz skyline
While successfully raising the profile of Northwestern Athletics locally, Phillips is at the same time one of the leading voices on the university sports scene. He was elected inaugural chairman of the Division I Board of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in February 2015. During a two-and-a-half-year tenure, he was the first ever athletic director on the NCAA Board of Directors and Board of Directors. In March 2017, he was named to the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball selection committee, Northwestern’s first representative in 50 years. In July 2020, the NCAA announced that it will serve as vice chairman of the committee during the 2020-21 season before chairing the committee in 2021-22. Phillips is currently a member of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee. He was also appointed to the Board of Directors of the Fiesta Bowl in June 2018. He is also the first vice president of the Board of Directors of LEAD 1, an organization that represents the athletic directors and programs of the 130 universities that are members of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Currently, Phillips is the third longest-serving FBS athletic director in the country in their current institution.
In May 2018, Phillips was awarded Sports Business Journal Sports Director of the Year, in recognition of the department’s ascension. He was also recognized as Director of the Under Armour Athletic Year of the National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics (NACDA) at FBS in both 2012 and 2016. During the summer of 2016, he and Northwestern hosted the Division 1A Athletic Directors’ Association Institute, a development conference for aspiring sports directors, the first campus to do so. In 2019, he was recognized by the NCAA as an Inclusion Champion. The honor recognizes those who work to support ethnic minorities and other populations who are underrepresented among the college’s athletics administrators. In 2020, Phillips announced the creation of a new senior leadership position, senior associate A.D./Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, to guide the department’s fundamental commitment to a world-class experience for all wildcats.
During his tenure in the Northwest, Phillips completed a two-year st. time as athletic director of the Big Ten Conference, representing the league’s AGs on the Executive Committee of the B1G Joint Group, while working simultaneously as a member of the Rose Bowl Management Committee. In 2018, he began his second st. time as a member of the Rose Bowl Management Committee. He was a member of the NCAA Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid Cabinet and is an athletic mentor in the NCAA Pathways program. He was also a member of the panel of the NCAA Champions Forum, a group of football coaches and sports directors who strive to increase the hiring and awareness of minority coaches.
He served as president of NACDA, the first northwestern AD to be elected to office. He is also a member of the NACDA Executive Committee, a mentor in the NCAA Fellows Leadership Development Program and has been a member of the Association of Boards of Directors of Colleges & Universities. He is an adjunct professor of management and organizations at Northwestern’s renowned Kellogg School of Management, and holds a course in comprehensive perspectives for leading a sports entity. He previously lectured on the Northwestern School of Continuing Studies’ Master in Sports Administration program and is on the Board of Directors of Loyola Academy in nearby Wilmette.
Academically, Wildcats student-athletes have had fairytale years with Phillips at the helm. Northwestern has surpassed 200 All-Big Ten academic awards in the past decade, including a record 288 in 2019-20. The group of more than 500 student-athletes representing 19 college athletic programs teamed up to publish a record GPA of 3,427 last year. Northwestern’s young men and women also achieved a record 106 prestigious Big Ten Distinguished Scholar awards in 2020. During Phillips’ tenure, three Northwest student-athletes were honored with the Wayne Duke Postgraduate Big Ten scholarship, most recently two-time NCAA platform champion Olivia Rosendahl in February 2019.
NU achieved an overall graduation success rate (GSR) of 97% in the latest NCAA data, a figure that has led all FBS schools for the third year in a row. The Wildcats scored an overall score of 96% or higher in each year that GSR data was released, finishing in the top 4 among FBS athletic departments for all 16 years. Northwestern football’s 100 percent GSR in 2019 marked the first time a Power-5 program has ever recorded a perfect score and leads the Big Ten by nine points. Wildcats football ranked first or second in the nation in GSR among FBS schools for 10 consecutive years.
Fourteen Wildcats programs recorded perfect scores for the current cohort, the highest total in the U.S. since 2009. The list includes baseball, cross country, field hockey, men’s golf, men’s football, men’s tennis, fencing, softball, women’s basketball, women’s golf, women’s lacrosse, women’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball.
Graduation Photo 2019 Phillips
Northwestern has led all Big Ten institutions with 13 college programs that have received academic progress rate (APR) public recognition awards, distributed by the NCAA to programs that rank in the Top-10% of their respective sports. It was the third year in a row that more than half of the NU’s 19 university programs received the award. Twelve of these 13 programmes have achieved 1,000 perfect multiannual rates. The Wildcats football family led the Big Ten by nine points and ranked in the top three FBS institutions for nine consecutive years. The Wildcats have covered the Big Ten in APR every year since the award began in 2004-05. Wildcats women’s golf and volleyball are part of an elite group of teams from across the country that have received the Public Recognition Award in each of the program’s 15 years. In 2017, among the more than 470,000 student-athletes across the NCAA, Nandi Mehta was one of only two awarded the prestigious Walter Byers postgraduate scholarship.
Northwestern continues to be among the nation’s leaders in community service under Phillips, who in 2011 oversaw the creation and hiring of the first UN A.D. assistant for community relations. All of Northwestern’s more than 500 student-athletes participated in community service during the 2018-19 academic year, with the group as a whole totaling more than 5,500 hours serving more than 100 community organizations, the third consecutive year Wildcats racked up more than 5,000 hours of service in Evanston and across Chicagoland. The emphasis on awareness also includes athletic department staff members attending the department’s annual service day each spring that began in June 2012.
Further improving the student-athlete experience, not only while at school but for the rest of their professional life, Phillips facilitated the establishment in 2012 of the pioneering ” NU For Life ‘ program run by associate A.D. for career improvement and relationships with the employer. The innovative four-year program is dedicated to guiding student-athletes towards their professional passion, linking them to desirable internships and job opportunities and preparing them for permanent success after their gaming careers have been completed. In 2019, thanks to the generous support of Trustee and former male tennis student-athlete David Kabiller, the department was equipped with the ” Nu For Life Program David G. Kabiller ”, ensuring its ability to have an impact on future generations of Wildcats.
Externally, Northwestern Athletics launched the first wide-ranging marketing campaign in the department’s history. The ongoing “Chicago’s Big Ten Team” campaign has produced significant increases in brand awareness and ticket sales over the past decade. The Wildcats’ presence throughout the city of Chicago has been a constant under Phillips, raising awareness at Northwestern University throughout Chicagoland. In 2009, the Wildcats baseball team defeated Notre Dame at U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.
Perhaps no relationship in Chicago has been more visible than the one Phillips and Wildcats have foretood the Chicago Cubs. In 2010, Northwestern faced Illinois at Wrigley Field in the first football game at Friendly Confines since 1970 and the first college football game on the site since 1938. After a 4013 event that included hosting ESPN’s flagship College Gameday program, the Cats and Cubs in 2013 signed a marketing and event giving multiple northwest teams the opportunity to compete in one of the sport’s most iconic venues. The series officially began on April 20, 2013, when Northwestern baseball defeated Big Ten rival Michigan at Wrigley Field and continued in 2014 when the seven-time NCAA women’s lacrosse team hosted the first lacrosse game in college, defeating University. of Southern California.
Phillips Wrigley’s press conference rides Crane
In February 2016, Northwestern Athletics agreed to an extension of broadcast rights with WGN Radio AM-720 as the home of Wildcats football and men’s basketball until the end of the 2019-20 basketball season. WGN has been the home of the Wildcats, with play-by-play voice Dave Eanet, since 1996.
No transformation has been more visible under Phillips’ guidance than the extraordinary facilities upgrades for all 19 varsity programs and more than 500 student-athletes. It launched the first master facility plan study in northwest history in November 2010 and, in 2012, announced approval by the Board of Trustees to build a large complex for athletic and recreational activities at the north end of the NU Evanston main campus.
The first steps in that plan were to meet the needs of the campus community, and in 2012 the University opened a multimillion-dollar sailing center on Lake Michigan, recognized as a leader in energy and environmental design and awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council with USGBC LEED Gold certification.
The department also unveiled a 30,000-square-foot expansion and renovation of the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, which included three new fitness rooms, a 7,000-square-foot strength and air conditioning area, two massage suites, classrooms, and offices. Recreational facilities on campus welcomed more than 550,000 visits last year alone, while club sports programs had more than 1,400 attendees and intramural participation exceeded 9,200. New flooring and brand were installed in the Blomquist gymnasium, renovating one of the most used recreational facilities on campus.
Northwestern has opened the new $18 million Rocky and Berenice Miller Park, a rigorous two-year project built on the exact site of former Rocky Miller Park without moving Northwestern Baseball from its home. In 2016, the new $25 million venues at Lanny & Sharon Martin Stadium, Chap & Ethel Hutcheson Field and Lakeside Field along Lake Michigan were officially unveiled.
In 2018, the department officially welcomed the Northwest community as a central priority of the athletic facilities plan, a $270 million, 500,000-square-foot development house for all student-athletes on campus. The outstanding Ryan Fieldhouse, Wilson Field and Slotnick Family Atrium, a dramatic venue for indoor practice and competition was dedicated in April 2018. The architecturally stunning 94,000-square-foot facility serves all 19 college teams, along with competitive and recreational sports. In August, the department opened its doors to the transformative Walter Athletics Center, the new daily hub of the world-class student-athlete experience at the heart of the Northwestern Athletics mission. The property includes locker rooms for seven varsity programs, the advanced Kaufman Family Athletic Clinic that houses the NU’s sports medicine and athletic preparation center, Nona Jo’s student-athlete catering and nutrition center, two sports show rooms, and academic and professional development for all 19 programs, and administrative support in the Querrey-Simpson ala.
On November 1, 2018, Northwestern unveiled an ambitious and comprehensive $120 million renovation of the Welsh-Ryan Arena, the department’s most used and versatile venue. The competitive venue for men’s and women’s basketball, wrestling, and volleyball, now has services for cutting-edge fans, such as the Wilson Club, for both fans and student-athletes, and is the most accessible arena in college sports, with ADA seating from every point of view on each level and five new elevators. The new $30 million Trienens Performance Center, a world-class development facility built within the existing Trienens Hall, opened in November 2019. This property is now home to men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, softball and wrestling. In the fall of 2019, a $7.5 million renovation of the Gleacher Golf Center and Patten Fencing Gymnasium was also opened. The complete transformation of space on Sheridan Road ensures that northwest golf and fencing have the best development facilities in the country.
Phillips Ryan Martin Trienens Schapiro Bienen
Northwestern and Under Armour entered into a historic and unprecedented multi-year partnership in 2012 that designates Under Armour as the official provider of the university’s athletic program. The partnership represented Under Armour’s first supply agreement with an athletic big ten conference program. A leader in high-performance clothing, footwear and accessories, Under Armour dresses all 19 northwestern men’s and women’s college athletics teams.
Along with the historic Under Armour agreement, the department has signed major corporate sponsorship agreements since it partnered with Learfield Sports in March 2011 and renamed northwestern sports properties (NSP). Northwestern’s total number of sponsors nearly tripled, including prominent partners such as AT&T, BMO Harris, USG, Allstate, Northwestern Medicine, Gatorade, Nissan, State Farm, Coca-Cola & Athletico Physical Therapy. Corporate sponsorship revenues have increased by more than 700% in nine years since the start of the partnership with Learfield.
Wildcats’ football subscription base increased from 10,600 in 2009 to over 25,000 in 2018, the all-time high. Attendance has increased by more than 15,000 fans per game at Ryan Field in the past 10 seasons, and the NU has set four football ticket revenue records over the past eight years. During Wildcats’ 2018 Big Ten West championship campaign, participation increased by more than 22% year-on-year, the biggest increase in FBS football.
Before its full overhaul, the old Welsh-Ryan Arena came out with a bang when Northwestern sold out a record five men’s basketball games in 2017 before game day. The base of basketball memberships went from 2,100 in 2009 to over 4,000 for 2018-19. Basketball ticket revenues have reached record levels in nine consecutive seasons from 2010-11 to 2018-19.
In collaboration with the Office of Alumni Relations & Development, Phillips has completely overhauled and expanded athletics development staff since 2012 in preparation for We Will: The Campaign for Northwestern. Since the campaign’s launch, Athletics & Recreation has secured more than $450 million in gifts, exceeding its initial target of $285 million three years earlier than expected. The department launched the elite Otto Graham Society which consists of more than 80 members who have committed over $15 million to the Wildcat Fund. Annual donations to the Wildcat fund increased by more than 113% from FY13 to FY18, while total donors increased by 35% from 4,700 to more than 7,000.
In competition, Northwestern has achieved historic success. During Phillips’ time in Evanston, lacrosse, softball, golf, fencing, soccer, tennis, field hockey, swimming, diving and wrestling have all won a conference or national championship, with the football team twice winning the Big Ten West Division crown in the last three years (2018, 2020). The Wildcats are one of four programs in the league that make the most appearances in the Big Ten Football Championship Game.
Nine of Northwestern’s 15 all-time bowl appearances have been earned since 2008. Four of the program’s five bowl wins have captivated the Wildcats community over the past eight seasons, including three in a row in 2016, 2017 and 2018. And four of the team’s five 10 -seasons won, including three in the last eight years, took place with Dan and Susan Jones Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald on the field as student-athlete or coach. The Orland Park native, and two-time National Defensive Player of the Year, has built a program that not only publishes the best academic achievements in college football, but has captured the 2018 and 2020 Big Ten West Division championships and produced a professional NFL parade.
In 2013, former Illinois Basketball President Chris Collins was recruited out of his university, Duke University, to lead the Wildcats’ men’s basketball program. He is now appointed basketball coach of Sullivan-Ubben Head Men. During the spring of 2017, the team took the entire Wildcats family on a joyous journey to the first NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 78 years, as well as its first NCAA Tournament win.
In April 2017, Phillips simultaneously announced long-term contract extensions for both Fitzgerald and Collins that will secure their future at Evanston until 2025.
Women’s football needed a transformative leader in 2011 and Michael Moynihan has been identified as the perfect solution for Wildcats women’s football. He returned the program to the NCAA Tournament in 2015 for the first time since 1998, kicking off his current four-place series in a row and clinched the 2016 Big Ten championship. The Wildcats selected three female athletes in the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League draft, more than any other college program. Men’s football has gained three pieces of Big Ten hardware since 2011, and head coach Tim Lenahan and staff have produced pros Tyler Miller, Cole Missimo and Joey Calistri.
Emily Fletcher, born in 2008, has led the Wildcats women’s golf to three Big Ten titles, an NCAA 2017 stroke play championship and a second place in the NCAA Match Play Championship and four top-10 ncaa championship results in the past five years. Northwestern’s men’s and women’s golfers are the beneficiaries of a collaborative leadership structure established in 2014 that includes Fletcher, men’s head coach David Inglis, and golf director Pat Goss, one of the world’s top teachers.
Considered one of the most prolific players in the history of the sport, coach Tracey Fuchs is an icon of field hockey. She was recruited to Northwestern from Michigan and in recent years quickly turned the Wildcats into a national powerhouse with a couple of Big Ten titles. The Hall of Famer has coached four student-athletes since 2010 who have totaled eight All-America awards, and has also been actively involved with Team USA, where she has coached at the Pan American Games and junior World Cup.
Northwestern’s powerful lacrosse team has won seven national championships since 2005. Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller has led the Wildcats to a record win – and postseason – in each of the last 14 seasons, while amassing conferences and national honors as one of the premier programs in the sport.
Phillips hired Katie Robinson as Northwestern’s Director of Swimming & Diving, making her the second woman to oversee both men’s and women’s programs at Power-5 conferences. Wild cats swimming and diving have gained enormous success during Phillips’ time in Evanston. Three-time All-American Olivia Rosendahl won the NCAA Women’s Platform Diving Championship in both 2017 and 2018, and the Wildcats have been represented in each of the last three Summer Olympics, most recently by swimmers Valerie Gruest-Slowing and Jordan Wilimovsky in Rio in 2016. In the summer before his senior season, Wilimovsky became the first American to compete in both indoor and outdoor swimming events at the same Olympics.
Men’s tennis has recorded 20 winning seasons in five of the last seven campaigns and has played in six NCAA tournaments under coach Arvid Swan. His team has garnered the most All-Big Ten awards in six of the last eight seasons.
Women’s tennis has been a model of constant excellence, earning a Big Ten championship trophy in eight of the last 11 seasons with Claire Pollard at the helm. Since 2008 Pollard has coached five All-Americans and has twice been recognized as The Big Ten Coach of the Year. Pollard led the NU to 21 consecutive NCAA tournaments, the fifth-longest series of an active coach in the same program.
The softball program led by coach Kate Drohan has been a significant success over the past decade, winning 30 or more games five times and advancing to seven NCAA tournaments. Led by national freshman of the year Danielle Williams in 2019, the team has won 20 consecutive Big Ten games, hosted an NCAA Regional, and was one of only 16 teams to advance to the Super Regional competition. Four Wildcats earned a total of six All-America nods under Drohan, while four were recognized as Academic All-Americans.
An opening at the top of the volleyball program in 2015 drew Shane Davis, the head coach of the two-time reigning national champions in the men’s college game. A similar opportunity to lead northwestern baseball brought Spencer Allen to Evanston, the first African-American baseball head coach in Big Ten Conference history. In his second season, Allen led the Wildcats to the Big Ten championship game for the second time in history.
Three wrestlers won national championships dating back to 2008, including freshman Jason Tsirtsis in 2014. Mike McMullan became the third four-time All-American in the program’s history in 2015. Seven Northwestern wrestlers combined to win nine Big Ten championships in that period, including 2020 157-pound champion Ryan Deakin, who was also the No.1 seed for the NCAA championships erased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Northwest fencing has been a model of consistency with 15 consecutive seasons of more than 30 wins, but coach Zach Moss has taken the Wildcats to a new level. Ranked second in the nation during the most recent season, Moss led the team to consecutive Midwest Fencing Conference championships in 2018 and 2019, the most recent of which included the ” Cats sweeping all three weapons for the first time in the program’s history.
Individually, the student-athletes won the Tewaaraton Trophy in women’s lacrosse (Hannah Nielsen, Shannon Smith), the Big Ten’s Wayne Duke Postgraduate Award (Olivia Rosendahl, Mark Ison, Drew Ratner), the Hodge Trophy in Wrestling (Jake Herbert) and the Big Ten Conference Awards for Men’s and Women’s Athletes of the Year (Jake Herbert in 2009 and Shannon Smith in 2011, respectively).
Prior to arriving in Evanston, Phillips was northern Illinois’ sporting director for four years starting in 2004. During that time, the Huskies had unprecedented athletic success and consistent academic achievement. On July 1, 2006, Phillips was promoted to associate vice president, in addition to his title of director of athletics, after already being recognized by his colleagues at the Mid-American Conference with his selection to serve as president of the MAC Athletic Directors’ Council. He was awarded the 2007 General Robert R. Neyland Outstanding Athletic Director of the Year award during the NIU, and was a member of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Committee during his time at mac.
Phillips has had tremendous success fundraising and marketing in Northern Illinois. He led the fundraising and construction of the $14 million Yordon Academic and Athletic Performance Center at the NIU, the largest capital project in the history of the athletics department, and has conducted several fundraising campaigns for athletics. In addition, the Huskies opened an indoor practice facility for baseball, softball, and men’s and women’s golf and began construction in the spring of 2008 of a new soccer/athletics complex.
During Phillips’ tenure at DeKalb, he was instrumental in scheduling high-profile football games against Michigan and Ohio State that led to national television appearances for NIU. He also negotiated to play at the University of Iowa in 2007 at Soldier Field in Chicago as a home game for the NIU, a game that sold out in less than a week. In addition, Phillips negotiated a multi-year radio rights agreement for WSCR-AM (The Score) in Chicago to broadcast soccer, men’s basketball, and a weekly NIU live radio program that discusses all of the Huskie’s athletic programs. Phillips also negotiated a television deal with Comcast SportsNet Chicago to bring football games and a weekly show called Inside Huskie Sports.
A 1990 graduate of the University of Illinois, Phillips began his career as a manager and assistant student in the Illinois athletic department. He earned a master’s degree in education from Arizona State University in 1992 while serving as a graduate assistant coach. He later became a basketball coach with limited earnings during a period when the Sun Devils reached the postseason in five consecutive years. He went from coach to athletics administration at ASU in 1997.
Phillips holds a Ph.D. in the Tennessee school administration, which he completed in the summer of 2007. Phillips was assistant director of athletics with the Volunteers until 2000. He directed an annual $12.4 million athletic donation program and was directly responsible for identifying, cultivating and donating and donating for the volunteer athletic program. He helped create the first capital campaign for athletics at UT that raised more than $50 million for endowments, facilities and programs. In addition, he oversaw several athletic programs and a variety of other areas.
Phillips then moved to the University of Notre Dame in 2000, where he was associate director of athletics and senior associate director of athletics for external affairs. During 2002-03, he helped launch the Rockne Heritage Fund, which became the first annual athletics fund that directly benefited from student-athlete grant scholarships. In addition, he managed the ticket office, various corporate sponsorships, athletic programs and a weekly Irish radio program. At the same time, Phillips played a key role in funding a new $24 million, 96,000-square-foot athletic facility. At Notre Dame, Phillips directed all phases of the athletics community relations program and helped develop new institutional and departmental advancement programs.
Phillips and his wife, Laura, have five children: Luke, Madeline, Meredith, John and James.