Autumn 2010: Of Note
Big Heart on Campus
Bill and Carol Fox continue to support their favorite cause
Emory Photo Video
By Maria M. Lameiras
Student, alumnus, staff member, administrator—William Fox 79PhD has had many roles at Emory. And Emory is many things that it once was not because of Bill Fox.
Now Fox and his wife, Carol, are expanding their legacy here with a $1 million bequest that will benefit a range of causes across campus, each of which has had a special meaning for the couple.
“The love we have for Emory is nothing less than profound and sacred,” says Fox, who was dean and vice president of campus life from 1979 until 1991, then served as senior vice president for institutional advancement (now called Development and Alumni Relations) from 1991 through 2004. He also loved teaching, taking time each year to teach at least one class as a professor of interdisciplinary studies. “I had long dreamed of a place to which I could give my career and my limited abilities, and I found that beautifully at Emory,” Fox says.
Before there was an online Facebook, Fox was legendary for his habit of memorizing the directory published with incoming students’ names and pictures each year so he could greet each new freshman by name when he met them on campus.
Wendell Reilly 80C is an active Emory alumnus, chairing the campaign for Emory College and serving on the Board of Trustees. He and his wife, Mary 81C 00T, are stalwart Emory supporters. But if it weren’t for Bill Fox, Wendell Reilly says, he might never have graduated.
“I’ll always remember a conversation I had with Bill more than thirty years ago. I was a college sophomore, sour on school, down on myself, and thinking seriously about dropping out. I went to Bill to share my plans, and his response was over the top,” Reilly recalls. “Basically, according to Bill, the world would come to an abrupt end if I left Emory. He seemed genuinely crushed by my news, and the effusive adulation that followed ranged from gross exaggeration to ridiculous. I didn’t believe a word he said—but he seemed to believe it. He saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. That’s Bill’s greatest gift, I think, and for that I’m most grateful.”
Emory trustee Laura Hardman 67C says Reilly’s anecdote perfectly illustrates Fox’s transformative presence at Emory.
“There are people all over this country who have that kind of story about Bill,” says Hardman. “Bill knew every student, whether an athlete or a scholar or a fraternity person or a music major. Everyone responded to him, and he reached out to everyone. His was an extraordinary presence on campus, and Carol was always with him at every event. The bonds they created are long lasting and they mean so much to people.”
Emory President Emeritus James Laney says Fox’s commitment to Emory and the welfare of its students were very personal interests for Fox as dean and vice president for campus life.
“He took a very ordinary campus life program in 1979 and turned it into one of the best in the country through his immense commitment to students,” Laney says. “He oversaw the development of facilities that enhanced campus life immeasurably, but he also knew the students and saw to their welfare. As a result, the morale of the students became impressively high, largely due to his personal interest in their happiness and in their disappointments. It was amazing.”
Students swimming at the Woodruff P. E. Center or studying in the R. Howard Dobbs University Center may take those facilities—and many other aspects of campus life at Emory—for granted, but alumni and administrators from Fox’s era as dean of campus life know he is largely responsible for the benefits today’s students enjoy.
“Bill had a genuine concern for students and wanted do the best he could for them in terms of campus life. He really worked on developing things he thought would increase the Emory spirit, including the inauguration of intercollegiate basketball and baseball, in which Emory has been quite successful,” says Linton Bishop Jr. 47M, who was a physician at Crawford Long Hospital (now Emory University Hospital Midtown) and an Emory trustee who worked closely with Fox on the campus life committee.
Fox became dean of campus life shortly before J. Davidson “Dusty” Porter 85C started at Emory.
“My years at Emory, 1981 through 1985, were a very exciting time at Emory University and Emory College. There was a shift toward a real campus life philosophy,” Porter says. “Bill Fox knew it was important to foster community and to provide important cultural and social aspects to campus life.”
Porter, chief of student affairs at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, credits his experiences at Emory as the springboard for his own career.
“I think back to what I learned at Emory and to role models like Bill Fox with affection. The interest he took in every student was incredible. Bill remains a mentor for me today,” says Porter, a past chair of the Emory Alumni Board.
In 1991, Laney appointed Fox as vice president for institutional advancement, where he took on the role of Emory’s top fund-raiser and one of its most prominent ambassadors.
“Bill impressed me so much and I felt, in a way, that having dealt with generations of students in campus life, it was now time for him to have relationships with them as alumni,” Laney says. “In both cases I turned to him when I really needed someone to do an outstanding job, and he never disappointed me. Today’s Emory would not be conceivable without Bill Fox’s contributions, both in campus life and in the field of development.”
During his fourteen years as head of the University’s development efforts, Fox led a capital campaign that raised $420 million, and overall Emory raised more than $1.78 billion in gifts, pledges, and planned gifts.
The Foxes’ planned gift to Emory demonstrates their continued care for the University community, undiminished since Fox’s retirement in 2005. “We decided that we should leave money to those areas where I had directly worked, with Carol alongside me. It was our only way, given limited resources, to make sense of our gift,” Fox says.
In 2006, the couple was honored with the naming of the Bill and Carol Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry, and in 2007 Fox was awarded the Emory Medal, the University’s highest honor for alumni.
“Together, though in different ways, Bill and Carol Fox have given nearly three decades of their lives to making Emory a place where matters of intellect cannot be considered without taking account of the richness of the human spirit,” says Emory President James Wagner. “Their gift, which will especially strengthen work in the humanities, student life, and scholarship, will continue to have a similarly expansive impact on the life of the heart and mind at Emory.”