CHAPEL HILL, NC – Phillip Ouker, a senior economics major, will graduate this spring not knowing that, outside of his presence, many of his peers have referred to him almost exclusively as “Black Phillip” for the last several years.
Ouker was born and raised in Pinehurst, North Carolina, where he thrived academically and socially. He became ‘Black Phillip’ when Philip Steely, who is white and now attends NC State, moved from Connecticut to Pinehurst, joining Ouker’s high school class. Unbeknownst to Ouker, his peers quickly adopted “Black Phillip” as a helpful moniker to distinguish him from Steely.
“I was friends with both of the Phillips, the one from Connecticut and Black Phillip,” said classmate John Brantwin. “Black Philip was the man.”
When Ouker arrived in Chapel Hill as a freshman at UNC, he soon embraced the new environment, joining the UNC General Alumni Association, getting involved in the Campus Y, and earning a spot on the club soccer team. His soccer teammates, like his friends in high school, developed a system of identification to easily distinguish between Ouker and a mutual friend, Philip Winters. Winters, who also played on the club soccer team, was called “Phillip.”
“It wasn’t meant to be offensive,” said Jonathan Williams, Ouker’s teammate. “We only called him ‘Black Phillip’ because we knew someone else named Phillip. And that Phillip was not black.”
As a senior, Ouker has devoted his energy to working on a senior thesis in economics, which explores the relationship between international banking systems and developing nations. To supplement his thesis, Ouker has completed several internships, including a two-month term with Goldman Sachs last summer.
“He was a delightful employee,” said Abigail Smith, who supervised Ouker during his time with Goldman Sachs. “When I would tell associates that Phillip was working on their project, they always wanted to make sure that it was Black Phillip.”
“Oh, no, he never heard,” added Smith.
After graduation, Ouker plans to pursue a Ph.D in economics at Harvard. In Boston, he will share an apartment with his boyfriend, “Gay Anthony.”