Trustee Richard J. Fox
Richard J. Fox thinks before he acts. In 1967, when trustees chairman Judge Charles Klein asked the entrepreneurial builder to bring his construction know-how to a board trying to manage numerous building projects, Fox spent days wandering the campus, talking to students.
“I was trying to learn what Temple was all about,” Fox recalled. “I discovered that Temple was a place where young people from all backgrounds could find a path for success. I felt that I could make a contribution and receive satisfaction from serving, so I said yes.”
Did he realize that one “yes” would turn into 37 — and counting — years on Temple’s board, including 16 as its chairman?
“I had no idea,” he said with a laugh.
Some describe Fox’s devotion to Temple as second only to Russell Conwell’s. His service and philanthropy are reflected in The Fox School of Business and Management, the Fox Center for Biomedical Physics, the Fox-Gittis Room of the Liacouras Center, and his founding of Temple’s Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish History.
Before beginning his love affair with Temple, Fox took his diploma from Philadelphia’s Central High School and enlisted in the Navy, which sent him to Georgia Tech and to service in World War II and the Korean War. He returned to Philadelphia and eventually started the Fox Companies, now a major construction and real estate management firm that developed the Wachovia Center, studios for the Comcast Sports Network, and Chesterbrook, widely considered the most comprehensively planned residential community in the state.
Fox’s tenure as chairman virtually coincided with the presidency of Peter J. Liacouras.
Concerned about enhancing Temple’s reputation, the two set out to convert Temple from being “the best-kept secret in the region” to being recognized for “its educational excellence and the bargain that it was.”
In one of the most ambitious and successful periods in University history, Temple strengthened its academic programs, added campuses regionally and globally, and built the Liacouras Center and new student housing. Just as important, perhaps, were decisions to hang banners around the campus, to provide lighting so powerful that one could “read a book outdoors at night” and to reach new audiences by adding classical music to Temple’s public radio station, WRTI.
“We undertook a 100-degree turn during those years in what Temple was and what it meant to people,” Fox said. “Sometimes, people used to react: ‘Temple, who?’ Now, it’s ‘Temple, WOW!’”
His years on Temple’s board have been “an amazing ride,” said Fox, currently chairman of the development committee. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I am still enjoying it. It is wonderful to be able to get up every day and say we’re going to move the ball a little bit and make something happen.”
- By Mark Eyerly