Your Deacs had a day off yesterday for the MLK holiday. Days off are a prized and wondrous thing in college, especially when they are due to an unexpected event, such as weather. And that’s where today’s Meet a Deac comes in. My friend and colleague Kevin Cox may not be someone your students would recognize by face if they passed him on the Quad or in the Pit, but he is the man behind so many of our campuswide communications, including canceling class. He does a lot more than that, too, but it’s the “This is Kevin Cox with a weather-related announcement” voicemails that have made so many Wake Foresters happy.
Kevin won the Employee of the Year in 2014, and it was richly deserved. He works tirelessly behind the scenes any time there is a campus crisis. He may be fielding middle of the night phone calls, or spending time on a weekend working with an incident on campus – but you can always count on him being calm, professional, and ready to do what is needed.
And while it looks like the mid-Atlantic and Northeast might be poised for a Giant Snow this weekend, as of this moment it doesn’t seem like it will be enough here to merit a call from Kevin Cox canceling class this coming Monday. But hope springs eternal 🙂
Here is today’s Meet a Deac, Kevin Cox.
What is your official job title?
Director of Crisis Communications and Community Relations. I am a member of the Communications and External Relations (CER) staff, which is part of University Advancement.
How long have you worked at WFU?
25 years. I joined the staff in August, 1990.
In laymen’s terms, what do you do at WFU?
Here are some of my key responsibilities. I develop plans for communicating in crisis/emergency situations; I work very closely with the University’s emergency manager, our police department, and our crisis management team in developing emergency plans and training for emergencies; I take the lead in communicating with the campus about not only emergencies, but also matters that relate to campus safety and security in some manner, including in severe weather (snowy/icy weather, for example); I assist in protecting the University brand in various ways; and I serve as a CER liaison to many committees and task forces on campus and to various off-campus organizations. For instance, I serve on the Staff Advisory Council and represent the Council on the Faculty Senate.
In what year did you graduate and what was your major? I was a student in the English Department’s graduate program. I completed my M.A. in English in 1981. I attended college in Texas.
You are a former Wake Forest parent too.
My children are Wake Forest graduates. My son, Tyler, received his B.A. in English in 2006 and is director of brewing for a craft beer brewery on the Connecticut coast. My daughter, Cassie, received her B.A. in religion in 2007 and her M.A. in counseling in 2009. She is a counselor at a Mount Airy middle school. I am grateful for my children’s strong appreciation of a good education and their love of Wake Forest.
What are some of your favorite memories of your time as a grad student?
I was fortunate to study with wonderful, unforgettable faculty in the English Department’s graduate program. That experience has influenced my life in substantial ways since that time. Professor Emerita Elizabeth Phillips inspired me then and in the years that followed. Once I returned to Wake Forest as a staff member, she would send notes to me telling me how proud she was of me and my service to Wake Forest. And we would visit each other on campus, talking about all sorts of matters. I think she is one of the most important figures in Wake Forest history. Of course, I had terrific experiences with other faculty, too, including a fine man who directed my thesis—Professor Emeritus Lee Potter. I learned important lessons from Elizabeth Phillips and Lee Potter outside the classroom, too, and I have drawn on those lessons for decades.
How would you characterize Wake Forest students? What are some common attributes they have?
I have been blessed to know many students who have become very impressive men and women, doing well in life and in their careers. When I hear from a graduate I’ve known for 20 or 25 years and learn about what’s new with their work, with their families, I am much impressed with them and grateful that they still enjoy sharing updates with me.
In many ways, the students I meet today are not different from those I met 25 years ago. They are good people, bright people with an enthusiasm for learning and “doing.” They want to contribute, make a difference, share their talents. So often, I can see how they have a big heart, much concern for our world that seems so close, so much smaller in today’s times.
What do you like best about working at Wake Forest?
I like doing my part as a member of the Wake Forest community. There is a very strong sense of community here. That’s the kind of place I need to be. When I am working on any sort of project with others, working collaboratively with staff, I can always depend on each and every member of the team to do a good job.
I also have frequent interaction with faculty and find that fascinating. Wake Forest attracts extraordinary faculty who “get” Wake Forest. This is a university where they want to teach, to conduct research, to work closely with students. As a parent, I saw firsthand how faculty connected with my son and daughter. They had impressive mentors here in the faculty. And, I will add there were staff who left a strong impression on my children, too.
What advice do you have for students?
I suggest that students get to know their faculty and the staff. The opportunity is there, I know that. And, speaking of opportunity, there are plenty of faculty and staff here who are available to help students realize their dreams. Wake Forest is a place of opportunity for students. If there is a goal a student wants to achieve here, faculty and staff want to assist them in achieving it. There are wonderful people here to light the way.
What advice do you have for parents?
A student needs to “own” their Wake Forest experience. It needs to be their experience. The highs and the lows. The successes and the failures. The student has the opportunity to learn from experience (just as we did in our younger years). As a parent, we feel the inclination to catch them when we they trip, stop them from hitting the ground. To a certain degree, it is okay for a student to fall down, get back up, and go at it again. At the same time, as parents, we want to let our students know we support them, that we are there for them, we want them to succeed. Just being available to listen to them, to hear them is important.
What is your favorite place on campus?
That is hard to answer. I will go with places. Hearn Plaza (the Quad) and Manchester Plaza (Mag Quad). The patio behind Reynolda Hall, overlooking Manchester Plaza. There are certain places where I walked with faculty members who said something to me that ended up being important in my life. Sometimes, it took me a while to understand it, truly. I needed to do some living, first.
This is always my favorite part – the bonus round, short answer questions.
Book you’re reading now: Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo. It’s a great novel. Family, close friends know that I have been influenced considerably by the writings of William Faulkner. Conrad’s work influenced Faulkner.
What music are you listening to these days: Music is a passion with me. My wife, Candace, and I enjoy live music, especially. Next live show, Brian Fallon, a young man who leads The Gaslight Anthem. I expect to see Josh Ritter next month, one of my favorites. When I was young and going to see Led Zeppelin, The Who, Santana and so on, I did not imagine that my enthusiasm for live music would be just as strong today.
Favorite movie: My favorite movies tend not to be recent movies. Casablanca, I watch numerous times a year. It is a favorite, always will be.
Website you frequent: Every morning, I read the newspaper web site for my hometown in Tyler, Texas.
Tell me something most people don’t know about you:
Nearly all of the most important friends in my life have been so since I was quite young. I became close to them no later than age 18. That includes my wife and her brother, who introduced me to her.
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