Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

August 30, 2013

Retired coach, IDOC employee receives Sagamore of the Wabash

By Brenda L. Holmes

INDIANAPOLIS – Phil Slavens of Brownsburg has been pretty busy for the past few weeks. He retired from the Plainfield Correctional Facility after 44 years of service and was just presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash award by Gov. Mike Pence. The ceremony was held in the governor’s office.

“I was almost embarrassed,” Slavens said. “It's really due to the people around me.”

During his time with the Indiana Department of Corrections, he served in several positions including correctional officer, correctional counselor, sergeant, and assistant superintendent.

“I didn’t know I was starting a career,” he said. “I started in August of 1969 and my goal was to work there until Christmas so I could buy gifts. I ended up staying 44 years.”

On Aug. 15, staff from around the department gathered for a retirement party where he was presented an award for his years of service and a state flag accompanied by a certificate for meritorious service by IDOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon. 

“It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with Phil Slavens during my career,” Lemmon said. “The department and the State of Indiana have benefited greatly from his leadership and dedication. He will be deeply missed.”

Lemmon was also present when the governor presented the Sagamore of the Wabash award to Slavens.

“The commissioner, who I’ve known for most of my life, told me about the Sagamore during my retirement party,” Slavens said. “I was blown away.”

The Sagamore of the Wabash is an honorary award created by the state of Indiana during the term of Gov. Ralph F. Gates (1945 to '49). It is the highest honor an Indiana governor can bestow on a resident. Among those who have received Sagamores have been astronauts, presidents, ambassadors, artists, musicians, politicians, and citizens who have contributed greatly to “Hoosier” heritage.

Slavens said the governor was very gracious during the presentation.

“He spent more time talking to my wife than me,” he said. “But I can’t blame him for that, she’s much better looking than I am.”

He and his wife, Billi, have been married for 41 years.

“It (marrying his wife) was the best decision I was ever allowed to make,” Slavens said. “She is absolutely my better half. No question in that.”

His service to the state is just one of his many accomplishments. He has also served the community of Brownsburg as a varsity high school soccer coach within the school district, president of the Brownsburg Junior Soccer League, president of Brownsburg Little League Baseball, and chair of the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports.

He served as a girls' soccer coach for 19 years — 15 of those as a varsity coach.

Slavens is also a member of Kingsway Christian Church where he has served in leadership has an elder.

He said his success in his employment and on the playing field have all come from a simple philosophy of doing the “right thing” and making people feel better about themselves.

“That has helped me in coaching, at the prison, and even in my eldership,” he said. “Just do the right thing.”

He said the flurry of activity has been wonderful but he's looking forward to slowing things down a bit.

“I want to play a lot of golf,” Slavens said. “And I want to spend as much time as I can seeing my granddaughter who lives near Chicago. My wife will be working a few more years so I think I'll just join the local golf circuit. I have lots of retired teacher friends I can play golf with.”

He said after life slows down he'll decide what he'll be involved with in the future.

“Who knows?” he said. “I know I'll stay busy. I may even go back and coach little kids.”