Robert Phebus ’74, Life is a Highway

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Road trips and automobiles are part of Rob Phebus’s DNA. His father did not like to fly, and his mother did not like boats, so family life revolved around the car. Ford vehicles were the transport of choice—the two occasions his family did not drive a Ford are exceptions that left less than favorable impressions.

It seemed only natural then that Rob would attend a college that was a twenty-hour road trip from his home in Maryland. After earning a bachelor’s degree in management science from Florida Tech in 1974, Rob went on to complete his master’s at Notre Dame. His passion for Ford was reignited, joining the Ford Motor Company immediately after graduation.

A self-described finance guy, Rob started in truck product development, having the opportunity to work on new market entries like the first Ranger compact pickup and the first Explorer mid-size sport utility vehicle. Other assignments exposed Rob to all aspects of Ford’s operations and ultimately took him to Venezuela, Brazil, Taiwan, and South Africa. During these international assignments, he and his family embarked on many local road trips, discovering new cultures and meeting new people.

In 2008, after thirty-two years of service with Ford, he retired as chief financial officer of Ford’s Subsidiary in South Africa. Even before his return to Florida, Rob has been actively engaged with Florida Tech. He served three terms on the board of Florida Tech’s Alumni Association from 1995 to 2003, including two years as president. In 2011, he became a member of the Florida Institute of Technology Board of Trustees, and today he serves as chairman of the board.

In 2013, Phebus was honored with the presentation of the Jerome P. Keuper Distinguished Alumni Award.

When it comes to their work with Florida Tech, Rob and his wife Deborah are most proud of the creation of the Phebus Family Scholarship, which was established in 2000. “My successes in graduate school and in my business career were directly attributable to the high-caliber education and experiences I had at Florida Tech. You weren’t a number; professors were deeply supportive to assure your academic and professional success. We wanted to ensure that students who work hard can have the same opportunities early in their journey through life,” he said. Rob and Deborah regularly meet with the student recipients of their scholarship fund and look forward to learning about their passions, both in school and in life.

Phebus was featured in Florida Tech’s 60th Anniversary special edition book, “60 for 60: Celebrating Sixty Years of Alumni at Florida Institute of Technology.” Copies are available for purchase here.

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