Couple forges new link in chain of giving

After 37 years with MU Extension, retiree Owen Fox and his wife, Vera Fox, continue to give back by donating to the Excellence in Extension Fund.

photo: Owen and Vera Fox

Owen and Vera Fox, pictured in 1993, have
continued to support MU Extension since
Owen's retirement in 1990 by volunteering
for their county office and with a recent
financial gift.
Photo courtesy of Life Touch and Olan Mills.

Owen and Vera Fox’s financial gifts to University of Missouri Extension are just the next link in a long chain of giving.

When Owen Fox was a senior at Farmers High School in Johnson County, Mo., his principal encouraged him to go to college.

In his 37 years of working for MU Extension, Fox said he saw his own experience reflected by the young people he mentored.

“Time after time, I’ve seen young people grow into leadership roles,” Fox said. “All you have to do is encourage them. And that’s what extension did for me.”

Fox said that after extension agent Frank Graham heard that Fox was planning to attend the University of Missouri, Graham took Fox and three other young men to visit the MU campus and to meet extension staff there.

Fox started at MU that fall and graduated with a degree in agriculture, majoring in university extension. He paid for college with a combination of scholarships, part-time jobs and in his fourth year, the GI Bill, which he received after two years of service in the Army during the Korean conflict. Later he completed a master’s degree in extension education and additional credit hours in child and family development.

Fox said that throughout his 37-year career with extension he received encouragement from many extension state staff members, supervisors and co-workers, and that helping each other was a part of extension’s culture.

Although the advice and support, and even the scholarship, may seem like gifts, they were really investments that paid off for MU Extension and Missouri.

photo: Owen Fox at the beginning of his career, and when he retired

Left, Owen Fox began working for MU Extension after he graduated from the
University of Missouri in 1953. Photo courtesy of Owen Fox.
Right, Fox retired from extension in 1990. Photo courtesy of Sedalia Democrat

What began with a high school principal and an extension agent encouraging Fox, continued with Fox giving back to Missourians for many years. At MU Extension, Fox worked with 4-H and other youth programs for 20 years.  At one point, Fox was passing on encouragement to 3,200 young people a year. Later, Fox transferred to the continuing education programs where he worked for another 17 years. His adult education programs reached 20,000 students.

“He was a good extension agent,” Vera Fox said about her husband’s career.

Owen Fox is still a good extension agent. Fox may have retired in 1990, but he and Vera have continued to give back to Missouri through donations and volunteering in their community. By donating to the Pettis County Extension Council Gifts and Endowment Fund in 1988, and more recently to the statewide Excellence in Extension Fund, they are supporting the extension agents who are forging the next links in the chain.

But from Fox’s perspective, his and Vera’s gifts are just one small example of all the generosity he has seen and experienced in extension. He feels thankful for his time in extension, and he knows that there are many other people out there giving back to Missouri and MU Extension. This chain of giving has a long history with many people contributing many links.

Published Wednesday, June 12, 2013