4/15/19 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University’s Dan Fox, associate professor of business administration in the Dauch College of Business and Economics, is the recipient of AU’s 2019 Taylor Excellence in Teaching Award. AU Interim Provost Dr. Todd Marshall presented the award at AU’s Academic Honors Convocation on Sunday, April 14, in the Jack and Deb Miller Chapel.
The award, first presented in 1997, was endowed by former Jeromesville residents the late Edward and Louaine Taylor as a way of supporting high quality teaching at Ashland University.
Marshall praised the selection of Fox as the 2019 Taylor Teaching Award recipient, noting that he is highly deserving of this recognition. “I am pleased to see Professor Fox earn this well-deserved recognition for his teaching excellence. He clearly exhibits a passion and love for teaching,” said Marshall.
Following the award presentation, Fox spoke about his philosophy surrounding the teaching of students in an address titled “Recognizing Opportunities.” He began by expressing how honored he felt to be receiving this award, and thanked the Taylor Teaching Award committee for selecting him.
Fox told the audience that he counts his blessings every day.
“I have a wonderful family and I thank them for their support over the years. My sons, John and Joe, and daughter, Christy, are all Ashland grads. I have two wonderful daughters-in-law, Emily and Alexa, and my daughter's boyfriend, Oleg, who has become part of the family,” Fox said. “Our first granddaughter, Hazel, is almost two. A grandson was born three days ago -- James Daniel Fox. Another grandson is due in July. My wife Judy and I have been married over 36 years, she is the love of my life and my greatest supporter. Thank you!”
Fox said a student asked him a few weeks ago, "‘How is it that you get to do so many exciting things?’"
“It was an easy answer for me – ‘Because I say yes to opportunities instead of no.’ While I feel often overwhelmed and know I am doing too much, I do get to do so many exciting things. Simply put, too many people walk away from golden opportunities that can enrich and transform their lives. They just won’t say yes,” he said.
Fox then quoted Thomas Edison who said, "‘Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.’”
“To me it is much more complicated than that. I believe golden opportunities are often disguised and simply hide themselves among numerous opportunities available to us on a daily basis,” he said. “We are saturated and overloaded with opportunities. How can we know what to say yes to?”
Fox said that since people like top five lists, he has developed a top three list of opportunities that have enriched his life in wonderful ways.
“The first opportunity: Don't miss the opportunity to help someone who has an urgent need,” he said.
He recalled an incident a few weeks ago when he was in the MBA office and a mother and son showed up from Brazil and the mom wanted to find her daughter, a student at AU. Apparently, their cell phones were not working and they did not know how to connect with her.
“In a matter of seconds, my brain weeded this opportunity out. I was too busy, it’s not my job to do this, and what's in it for me? Thankfully, that inclination to send them to someone else was overridden. I know how it feels to be in foreign land, absolutely lost and unable to speak the language. I said yes to the opportunity to help,” he said.
Fox took charge and the student was found in a class at the Rec Center and he went with the mother and son to find the student.
“As we approached the Rec Center, mother and daughter saw each other from a distance. They ran to meet each other. The three of them embraced and all the while I had a front row seat to something quite extraordinary,” he said. “It stills warms my heart when I think about that reunion. To think I may have missed that opportunity to witness something so special. You can't go wrong helping people in need.”
Fox said he looks around today and sees so many people staring at their cell phones and even more now with headphones on. “In effect, people are blocking out the world around them. Without seeing and hearing, how can someone interact with the people around them? What opportunities are they missing?” he asked.
“My second piece of advice is this: Take the opportunity to interact with the people you come in contact with on a daily basis. Even a stranger,” he said.
Fox recalled an incident a few years ago while he was on vacation in Hawaii. He and his wife decided to grab a quick breakfast at McDonalds before heading out for a day of touring the island. Across the aisle from them was an older couple and he struck up a conversation with them. He came to find out that the man worked for BF Goodrich most of his career, but further discussion led to him to discover that the man was Paul Kidd, who was the inventor of the New Balance Shoes.
“Wonderful opportunities can be discovered by simply talking to the person next to you. Even if they are a stranger,” he said.
“The last and most important opportunity is a little more personal to me. Sometimes it’s easy for me to feel self-important and forget about all the people who serve me on a daily basis. It is important for me to take the opportunity to humble myself and serve those who serve me,” he said.
He noted that some years ago he was consulting in Saudi Arabia and after arriving, the first couple nights, he would lay there unable to sleep because his body had not adjusted to the time change.
“On one of those sleepless nights at about 3 in the morning, I gave up and decided to go to the lobby, get a cup of tea and a snack. Two Pakistani men were waiting to serve hotel guests on a 24/7 basis. I had the routine down. I would order my tea or coffee, they would bring it to me and I would tip them very well,” he said. “You see these men only earned about $500 a month and sent most of that home to their families. They worked two years and returned home for a month or two and the rest of the time served people like me. A tip of $5 or $10 was significant to a man that only makes $500 a month and I patted myself on the back for being so generous to them. I realize now while important, how superficial and shallow my behavior was.”
Fox explained that on one of those jet lagged, sleepless nights something different happened -- instead of ordering one tea and one snack, he ordered three teas and three snacks and followed the men into their kitchen where he invited them to sit at a table. “I poured them tea and gave them each a snack. We drank tea and broke bread together that evening. Unable to speak each other’s language, we still communicated in the universal language of love and respect for each other,” he said.
“I am sure that I broke a few protocols that night. That simple act of humbling myself to serve these two men is something I will never forget. I connected with these men in such a different way and defied the norms of the world. I served those who serve me,” he said. “So often pursuing an opportunity transforms us and softens our hearts. This experience provided me with a vision of how I could serve people and serve God. While the food nourished my body, the service to those men nourished my soul. I got it right that night.”
Fox ended his speech with this thought – “There is no greater opportunity than to serve others. I thank God for the opportunity to serve students, the people in this University and my family. Thank you all and may God bless you.”
The Taylor Teaching Award Committee, whose purpose is to select the award recipient, reviews submitted materials of faculty members who are nominated by students, faculty or department chairs. The committee, comprised of former Taylor Award winners, also observed classroom sessions of those who were nominated.
All full-time faculty with a minimum of three years of teaching experience at AU are eligible for the award. Recipients of the award cannot repeat for three years and no faculty member may win the award more than twice. The recipients receive a medal to be worn with academic regalia and a stipend.
Ashland University, which has been ranked in the top tier of colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category, is a mid-sized, comprehensive private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Religiously affiliated with the Brethren Church, Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###