William “Bill” H. Fox Jr. 79PhD
Emory Medalist 2007
By Eric Rangus
The Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry (CHI) is housed in an attractive, historic brick building on North Decatur Road, near the edge of Emory’s Atlanta campus. The center was dedicated during Homecoming 2006. By donating his name to the CHI, Fox ensured his legacy for generations to come. Not that it was necessary.
Unlike the location of the center that bears his and his wife’s names, Fox’s devotion to the University community and his personal and professional dedication to Emory for more than thirty years are anything but peripheral.
Fox has confessed to friends that he “bleeds gold and blue.” Following an undergraduate career in which he earned a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, and a master of divinity degree from Southern Methodist University, Fox came to Emory in 1971 to pursue a doctorate in religion and literature. He began his administrative career in 1974 and completed his PhD in 1979.
Fox was named the first dean of campus life and was promoted to vice president three years later. For students on campus throughout the 1980s, Fox was Emory University. He connected with thousands of Emory students on a personal level. Every student knew Bill Fox, and he knew every student.
Back then, Emory published a book each year that listed incoming students and included their pictures. And each year, Fox would memorize those names and faces so he could call all students by their first names upon meeting them. He was an adviser and a trusted friend, and his love for the University was contagious. Under Bill Fox’s leadership, the Emory campus truly came to life.
“Bill is one of the main reasons I decided to enter into the profession of college student personnel,” said Emory Alumni Board President Dusty Porter 85C. Porter, vice president for student affairs at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, was a former student worker and staff member when Fox was campus life vice president.
“He was the epitome of what a dean of students should be,” Porter continued. “Later, when I joined the Emory campus life staff, I had the opportunity to observe his leadership style. He attended to both the head and heart of staff members. It’s something I try to emulate.”
Much of the campus as we know it today bears Fox’s stamp. He oversaw the planning and opening of many facilities, including the Woodruff P. E. Center and the Dobbs University Center, hubs of activity for the Emory community. Volunteer Emory was created under Fox’s watch.
And every year, he taught at least one class.
“To see a student come alive to the love of literature is one of the most miraculous things a professor can witness,” said Fox, who acquired his love of books at an early age from his mother, a schoolteacher.
“I got to know some of the greatest students anywhere in the world,” he said. “Together we sought to build new programs and a new sense of community for Emory. We sought to increase activities and to be of service to the community in new ways. And we sought to promote diversity and embrace all people no matter what their background and no matter what their nature.”
In 1991, Fox was named vice president for institutional advancement (IA), where he took on the role of Emory’s top fund-raiser and one of its most prominent ambassadors. At first, Fox admitted, he resisted the move. But it was Fox’s mentor, then-President James T. Laney 94H, who convinced him of the job’s importance: “I need you,” he said.
“That’s all it took,” Fox said. “And I came to love it.”
During his fourteen-year tenure, IA (now known as the Office of Development and Alumni Relations) raised $2 billion in gifts, pledges, and planned gifts. “It’s just been exciting being part of an Emory that became nationally and internationally known and one of the top schools in the world,” Fox said.
Fox officially retired on January 17, 2005, and he currently serves as president of the Rollins Educational Initiative, a foundation that targets and assists at-risk children.