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PENN BIOGRAPHIES

William Ruckman Philler (1857-1944)

University Affiliation:
  • A.B. 1875, A.M. 1878, LL.B. 1878
  • Founding member of the Athletic Association and the College Boat Club
  • Alumni Award of Merit, 1941
Biographical Summary:

 

William Ruckman Philler was born in Philadelphia on February 17, 1857 to George Philler and Rebecca Ruckman Philler. He entered the College of the University of Pennsylvania in 1872 as a sophomore and member of the Class of 1875.

Philler was a very active and enthusiastic member of the Penn community. As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and the Philomathean Society, where he served as the Society’s Censor. He was also a founding member of both the Athletic Association of the University of Pennsylvania, serving as its treasurer 1873-1875, and the College Boat Club, where he was a member of the four and eight-oared crews. Philler also played on the varsity baseball and varsity cricket teams. Philler’s involvement with Penn athletics did not stop after graduation as he again served as treasurer of the Athletic Association 1882-1883, as secretary of the University Cricket Association in 1880, and remained a lifelong member and supporter of the College Boat Club.

Philler earned a B.A. from the College in 1875 and continued his education at the University of Pennsylvania earning an M.A. and LL.B. in 1878. At commencement in June 1878, Philler had the honor of delivering the law oration.

Soon after graduation, Philler started working as a manager for the Western Savings Fund Society. In 1886 he started as secretary of the Real Estate Trust Company, a position he held until he retired in 1921. He was also very active within the Merion Cricket Club, serving as its treasurer 1878-1913, vice-president 1913-1935, and president 1935-1936.

In June 1885, Philler married Emily Chapman Winsor (1863-1941). Together they had one daughter, Emily Winsor Philler (1886-1946, Mrs. Clement Biddle Wood) and one son, William Winsor Philler (1888-1957). William Winsor Philler also attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduating with a B.S. in 1910. It should be noted that William Ruckman Philler’s brother, George Stanley Philler (1859-1914), also attended the University of Pennsylvania earning a B.A. in 1877 and an M.A. and LL.B. in 1878.

Philler was very active as an alumnus. He served as an officer of the Class of 1875, organizing reunions and keeping track of his fellow classmates well into the 1930s. At a time before the streamlining of alumni groups, Philler was active in the Society of Alumni of the University of Pennsylvania, the Central Committee of the Alumni of the University of Pennsylvania, the Society of the Alumni of the College of the University of Pennsylvania, the Society of Alumni of the Law Department of the University of Pennsylvania, and the General Alumni Society. At the 27th Founder’s Day in January 1941, Philler received an Alumni Award of Merit for “service to University alumni organizations, perhaps of longer duration than that of any other living graduate, and because of an unswerving and inspiring devotion to his Alma Mater.” 1

Upon the death of Dr. John A. Fell (M-1874) on January 4, 1944, Philler assumed the title of oldest living alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania. He held this title until his own death on March 10, 1944 in Haverford, Pennsylvania, aged 87.


1 “Founder’s Day.” The Pennsylvania Gazette vol. 39, no. 5 (February 1941), 142.