Participant Stories

Phillip Allon Guilliams

Coshocton, OH

I spent my childhood on a small farm in rural eastern Ohio.  Since age 5, following the death of my mother, I was raised with a foster family.  Growing up, I was really enthralled by the world of astronomy, science fiction, and the budding space program. My career goal was to become an astronomer and then apply for the NASA space program.  Throughout school, I was a bookish and quiet student who got exceptional grades.  I even skipped a grade in middle school.  By the time I graduated high school, however, I had started experiencing the deep psychological effects of my abusive foster home environment. Shortly after turning 17, I began attended Ohio State University (OSU) on a scholarship.  I did well during my first year, but, once I turned 18, I became much more interested in partying than studying.  I flunked out of OSU and entering the United States Army.

After serving two tours in Vietnam, I returned to a world that I did not know.  I had missed the drug, sexual, feminine and racial revolution that took place in the late 1960’s. When I left for Vietnam, girls were wearing poodle skirts and bobby socks.  When I returned four years later, they were braless and smoking. The cultural changes were staggering and shocking, but I gradually readjusted.  Again, I took comfort in scholarly studies.  I was determined to obtain my college degree, and, through the GI Bill, I began studying at Kent State University in Ohio.  My 4.0 GPA earned me a full assistance-ship at SUNY Albany where I graduated with straight A’s and a Master’s degree in criminology.

Rather than joining a criminal justice agency, I started my PhD studies at Michigan State University.  While in Michigan, I went through a traumatic divorce that forced me to drop out of the PhD program.  I accepted various sales jobs simply to support myself, but I quickly began moving into higher positions with more responsibilities.  Ultimately, I pursued a career in Staffing and Recruiting and worked closely with several Fortune 500 companies.  My studies and my career took me across the country, and I lived in New York, Connecticut, Michigan, and Florida, and eventually ended up in New Jersey.  Now, in my late 60s, I am essentially retired, but I often enjoy consulting on projects that I find interesting.  I am still sometimes shocked at the changes I’ve witnessed in myself and the country.  The differences between my upbringing in rural Ohio and my current life in suburban New Jersey are staggering.  My only memory of Project Talent is that the study would track our life events.  As a young teen in Ohio, I could not imagine how dramatically my worldview and the world around me would change in a mere 50 years.

< Back to Participant Stories