Mercer Law admission leads to love at first sight

a man and woman stand next to each other in commencement attire
Marilyn Sutton and George Phillips

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching and spring just around the corner, many will find their thoughts turning to love and romance. But for two Double Bears, the season has nothing to do with the true love they have shared for 14 years.

Marilyn Sutton, CLAS, ’83, LAW ’92, who has served Mercer School of Law as assistant dean of admissions and financial aid for almost 25 years, and George Phillips Jr., CLAS, ’69, LAW ’13, met at a law school admissions event in the spring of 2010.

“I remember the day George’s application was evaluated by our admissions committee. The committee voted to admit him, and soon afterwards we hosted an open house that he attended,” Sutton said. “I remember shaking his hand for the first time at the reception. He was very nice and had a funny sense of humor.” 

The two corresponded about typical admitted-student issues during the spring and summer. Then, during orientation that fall, Sutton saw Phillips standing in line.

“He grinned and winked at me,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘Is he flirting with me? Did he just wink at me?’”

Indeed, he did. And she liked him immediately.

Sutton recalled the first time she went to Phillips’s house and met his dog, Boomer, a Munsterlander known for his ferocious bark. She took it as a good sign that Boomer didn’t bark at her. Instead, he sat at her feet with a smile on his face as if he knew she was going to be his new mom.

Sutton and Phillips were engaged in April 2011 and married in May 2012 on St. Simons Island. Sutton said it was the best day of her life.

Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, Sutton earned her bachelor’s degree in business and began her career at Tift College in Forsyth as director of financial aid. In 1986, she began working at the Mercer School of Law as director of financial aid and advanced to director of financial aid and associate director of admissions before being promoted to assistant dean of admissions and financial aid in 1999. Sutton and her team attend more than 100 recruiting events each year, and that does not include the various events hosted at the law school. 

In a position where one must be a good leader, counselor, data analytics expert, emergency responder, marketer, writer and more, Sutton said working with students is the best thing about her job.

“It is so satisfying to meet a student at the beginning of their legal journey, watch them progress through law school, and then become a member of the legal community,” she said. “I have seen students get married, have children, and now some of those children are coming to Mercer Law. Those relationships are so meaningful to me.”

As for Phillips, he grew up with a father who was a lawyer and educator and a mother who taught at Wesleyan College. His parents’ careers fueled his natural desire to learn new things. After graduating from Mercer with a degree in chemistry, Phillips joined the Army, and obtained his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia.

He loves pursuing new interests, such as earning his pilot’s license, studying French and German, and learning to play classical guitar. After retiring from his 20-year career as a surgeon in the Army, Phillips went into private practice in Colorado and then later academic medicine in Louisiana. A few years later, he decided he wanted to pursue a legal career.

Sutton thinks Phillips chose Mercer because his family lives in Macon and because he was familiar with Mercer after attending undergraduate school.

“I would like to think that I had a little something to do with his decision, too,” she added.

Today, Phillips has his own law firm in Macon, where his legal practice area is medical malpractice.

Maybe it was fate that brought this couple together. Whatever you call it, Sutton said marrying Phillips was the best decision she ever made.

“I love so many things about George. He is always striving to learn new things and can always make me laugh,” she said. “If you know me well, you know I love someone with a great sense of humor. It gets you through the best and worst of times. We have a wonderful life that we share with our English cocker spaniel, Beau.” 


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