AU mourns the passing of W. Shirell Fox

Tue, 2012-07-24 08:48 -- univcomm

   Date: 9/10/2001

   Title: AU mourns the passing of W. Shirell Fox

James Edwards was prepared for the news. That didn't make it any easier when the Anderson University president was told late last week that W. Shirell Fox, 81, had died. "He was such a friend," Edwards said. "He had touched so much of this campus and the community." Fox served Anderson University for 37 years as the director of publicity, a journalism instructor and as assistant to the president. Although Fox had helped put the small Church of God-sponsored school on the map, his influence spread far beyond Anderson University. His life impacted countless others through his work with the school and through his tireless volunteer efforts in the community, Edwards said.

Fox died Friday morning at St. John's Medical Center at 81. He had been hospitalized there since becoming ill about two weeks ago.

The past few days, those close to him knew the end was near, said former AU President Robert Reardon, who visited his close friend and former assistant every day at the hospital.

"Their family was very close to us, a family we loved," Reardon said. "We wanted to be there during his homegoing."

A licensed minister in the American Baptist Churches, Fox had been interim pastor of more than 40 congregations.

Reardon said Fox dedicated his life to faithfully serving God, his community and his friends.

"He was a man not only of good manners, but a man of good character," Reardon said of the man he will eulogize Monday. "You could tell that by the way he treated people."

Fox was one of the 10 most important people in the past 50 years at Anderson University, Reardon said. AU's first president, John A. Morrison, hired Fox in 1948 as director of publicity to get the word out about the school, said current president Edwards.

"Long before we had a lot to brag about, he was representing us at our best," Edwards said. In addition to promoting the school to the outside world, Fox was integral to operations on campus -- handling the details of commencement and special programs. He brought special guests to the school like Charles Schulz and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

More important than the job he did, however, was the way in which he did it, Edwards said. "He had the highest of standards in presenting the public image of the university in keeping decorum," Edwards said. "He was a gentleman, the best of Indiana qualities of friendship and warmth." AU will memorialize Fox on campus in the future, but it is too early to say how, according to Edwards. The school will be a part of the funeral services Monday, he said.

Fox retired from the university in 1985, but his work in the community continued. He served the Boy Scouts of America for more than 65 years at the local, state, national and international levels, receiving just about every honor the organization could bestow.

Former Indianapolis mayor William H. Hudnut II designated June 17, 1987, "W. Shirell Fox Day" in Indianapolis in tribute to Fox's years of service to youngsters.

In 1985, Fox received the Chief Anderson Award from late Mayor Thomas McMahan and was designated a Sagamore of the Wabash by Gov. Robert Orr.

Fox had already been named a Kentucky Colonel by Kentucky Gov. Julian Carroll in 1978.

J. Berkshire, a past president of the Anderson Lions Club, said Fox was always willing to help out however he could in that organization and the community.

"He tried to look out for others rather than getting notoriety for himself," Berkshire said. Fox was chaplain for Lions Club District 25D and the state of Indiana as well as past president and governor for the district. His loss leaves a void in the organization, Berkshire said.

"He's been a guiding light," Berkshire said. "He's probably one of the most respected Lions in the state." Fox had lived in Madison County his entire life before he and his wife Phyllis moved to Columbus, Ohio, this summer to be closer to their son and grandchildren. Despite the move, he remained a part of the community.

Now, despite his passing, Edwards said the legacy of W. Shirell Fox will live on. "I think he was the citizen of Anderson," Edwards said, "and a trustee of the community."

---RON BROWNING is a staff reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin.