Phil Gordon retired in 2003 as the County Extension Director and Leadership Community Development Educator in Elkhart County, completing a career as a counselor and an educator that included service at universities and public school corporations, and 21 years with Purdue’s Cooperative Extension Service. Gordon graduated from Purdue University in 1965 with a B.S. in Animal Sciences. He continued his studies at Ball State University, earning an M.A. in Counseling Psychology in 1968, an Ed.D. in Counseling and Psychology Guidance in 1972, and a Superintendent’s License in 1976.
Gordon began his career by serving two years as a residence hall counselor at Purdue. From 1967 to 1970 he was an agriculture teacher, work experience coordinator and guidance counselor for the Delaware Metropolitan School District. For the next year worked for the Randolph Circuit court as a Probationary Court Counselor. He then worked for two years at Grand Valley State University in the Counseling Center and Educational Studies. From 1974 to 1982 he worked in various capacities for the Pike Township schools in Marion County, including elementary guidance counselor. During his first six years with the school district, he also served as the Pike Township 4-H program supervisor. In 1982 Gordon joined Purdue Extension as Marion County’s 4-H Program Coordinator and Youth Educator. In 1986 Gordon moved to Elkhart County to become the County Extension Director.
Gordon’s career achievements have been numerous, but some of his most innovative and lasting accomplishments have been to improve the Elkhart County community through long range and comprehensive planning activities. Through his land use efforts, the county adopted one of the state’s first agricultural zoning ordinances that protected large farms from nuisance complaints. For nine years he was a member of the Purdue Extension Land Use Team, the first-ever collaboration of county educators and campus specialists devoted to working on a public issue. The Land Use Team trained more than 1,300 local plan commission staff members and gave guidance to numerous communities as they developed plans or revised their zoning. In the early 1990’s he led the Take Charge program that identified communication and efficiency needs in Elkhart County government, creating two monthly forums that still meet. The Elkhart County-Elkhart City Advisory Board brings political, business and community leaders to discuss community issues and activities. A second group, the Inter-Government Forum, brings government leaders together to discuss policy and community-wide coordination. In 2000 Gordon led the effort to construct a new Extension Office/USDA Service Center at the county fairgrounds.
Gordon served on numerous local boards and his leadership record includes: Elkhart County Park and Recreation Board President 1993-94; Elkhart County Plan Commission President 1992-93; Elkhart County 4-H Fair Board, Executive Board and Long Range Planning Committee. In retirement he has been a member of Kosciusko County Fair Board since 2003 and leads the effort to develop and master plan as the facilitator for the Long Range Planning Committee. He was an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Goshen from 1987-2003 and has been a Goshen Rotarian since 1987. At the state level, he served on the boards of the Indiana Council for Economic Education (1987-2003) and the Indiana 4-H Foundation (1991-95). He has been active for 21 years in the Indiana Association of County and District Fairs, serving as Hall of Fame Chair from 2001-03.
Gordon’s influence has extended far beyond Elkhart County, as he has participated in a Rotary International Group Study Exchange to Japan in 1993 and worked with dairy farmers in Uzbekistan as a representative of Winrock International in 1999. He was selected in 1992 as a participant in the National Extension Leadership Development (NELD) North Central Region program. In 2001 Gordon was honored by Purdue Extension with the Senior Innovator Award in Community Development and Public Policy. In 2002 he received the National Extension International Award for Service. Also in 2002, the Purdue Extension Land Use Team, of which Gordon was a nine-year member, received the Dean's Team Award from Purdue Dean of Agriculture Vic Lechtenberg.