William H. ‘Bill’ Fox Jr., 75: He was an ‘irresistable” presence at Emory University

There were two great loves in the life of Bill Fox: his wife Carol and Emory University.

“And it was in that order,” Jim Fox said of his brother. “And he loved Emory just as much as the people there loved him.”

To say the people of Emory loved Fox is not hyperbole, said James T. Laney, president emeritus of the university.

“He had an infectious, contagious, embracing cheer and warmth that was irresistible,” Laney said in a telephone interview. “He was a pied piper on campus and the students just loved him. And of course the faculty did too.”

Fox was a part of the Emory community in nearly every possible capacity, from being a student and alumnus, to staff member and administrator to university benefactor, according to a news release from the school.

“Bill, as everyone knew him, forged a significant legacy during his 43-year association with the university,” the release said.

After retiring in 2005 as senior vice president for external affairs, Fox continued to champion the school for the rest of his life. In 2007, the university awarded Fox its highest alumni honor, the Emory Medal.

“He brought an incandescent joy to all he did and to all who knew him,” Laney said in a prepared statement.

William H. Fox Jr., of Decatur, died Friday unexpectedly at Emory University Hospital. He was 75.

A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Tuesday at All Saints Episcopal Church, Atlanta. H.M. Patterson & Son Funeral Home, Spring Hill Chapel, is in charge of cremation arrangements.

A native of Paris. Ark., Fox earned a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., a master of divinity degree from the Southern Methodist University and a doctorate from Emory. While working on his divinity degree, Fox began his administrative career as an assistant director in the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts in 1974 and finished his Ph.D. in 1979.

Even as a student, Fox’s enthusiasm for life and the institution was evident, Laney said.

“Before we were friends, he was visible on the Emory campus and his presence was so vivid,” the former president said. “When I was in great need of someone to refashion our student affairs program, we had a national search but Bill had such a commanding presence right in our own yard that he was inevitable to be chosen.”

According to the university, Fox was appointed Emory’s first dean of campus life in 1979 and he was promoted to vice president three years later. In 1991, when the university’s chief development officer left, Laney persuaded Fox to assume the leadership of what was then the university’s Office of Institutional Advancement.

Laney said Fox was so effective because of his ability to connect with people, adding, “He brought an incandescent joy to all he did and to all who knew him.”

Family friend Bob Edge said Fox was more than “optimistic, positive and enthusiastic” person in everything he did.

“That is what made him an interesting person,” Edge said. “That is what started our friendship and made me see him as an extraordinary fellow.”

In addition to his wife and brother, Fox is survived by a number of extended family members.

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