Donald Cox image

Donald Cody Cox
Professor of Microbiology

March 31, 1936 - August 28, 2000
  Colleague, Teacher,
Mentor, Friend


As I thought about what to say today, I decided that I wanted to make sure that Don Cox's family knows that Don Cox was held in great esteem by many people--students, faculty, staff and administrators. On Monday afternoon, Provost Ronald Crutcher asked the members of Faculty Senate to stand for a minute of silence in memory of Don.

All of us loved Don and this has been a very sad week. As I walked across campus, people stopped to express their sorrow and grief. There was a somberness you could feel, throughout the biological sciences building, that I have never experienced before--not just in microbiology but throughout the entire building. Don's impact was far-reaching.

We'll never forget our wonderful colleague and very dear friend. We'll remember the twinkle in his eye and his warm smile that always greeted us.

During the 11 years Don Cox served as Chair, the Department of Microbiology grew in stature because of his exceptional leadership skills. He deserves the credit for building a nationally known Microbiology Department whose students are vigorously recruited by industry and graduate schools. Because of Don's foresight, the Department has continued to meet the needs of the nation in terms of appropriately trained microbiology graduates. In 1986, Don successfully obtained, for our department, one of the first Program Excellence awards from the Selective Excellence program of the State of Ohio. In 1988, he obtained an Ohio Academic Challenge award for us. He also played a key role in obtaining the first of three multimillion dollar Howard Hughes Grants for Biomedical Education, which Microbiology shares with Botany, Zoology, Chemistry and Biochemistry.

We'll remember Don as a colleague who would sit back at faculty or committee meetings and listen to others make suggestions, comments, and arguments probably biting his tongue in some instances)--and after everyone had had their say, he would often quietly speak up with the definitive answer, showing once again his wisdom and the path to the right solution.

Don was a warm, kind, gentle person with a quiet sense of humor and generosity that touched us all. He was one of the most unselfish persons I have ever known. Nine years after he had stepped down as Chair of the Department of Microbiology, I asked him to assume those responsibilities again so I could spend a semester in Luxembourg--he didn't hesitate for even a second and enthusiastically encouraged me to go. In looking back on my request, I suspect that assuming the Chair position was actually the last thing he wanted to do, but you would never have known it in his response to me. That's the kind of person Don was--he cared about the Department; he cared about the University; he had a passion for microbiology; and his colleagues' and students' ambitions and achievements seemed always to be more important than what he wanted for himself.

The fact that many undergraduate and graduate students have come long distances to be here today, speaks very clearly of how much they loved and admired him. And graduate students who did their doctoral work with other professors in the department have also come from out-of-town today to express their friendship, love and affection for Don. Graduate education was very important to him as demonstrated by his 20 years as academic advisor to all new microbiology graduate students. He also served as Director of Graduate Studies for the Department from 1989 to 1999.

Don was an outstanding research scholar. He explored the ability of specific animal viruses to modify the characteristics of tumor cells. He focused on characterizing the nature of the interaction of reovirus with tumor cells and he studied the immune response to virus-modified tumors. His work resulted in numerous professional presentations at national meetings, published journal articles and abstracts. Many of his students have positions at prestigious institutions and they have attained international recognition for their scientific contributions. Don was a Fellow of both the Oklahoma Academy of Science and the American Academy of Microbiology.

Miami University has many good teachers, but Don Cox was truly extraordinary. As chair, I really enjoyed reading his teaching evaluations. I even sat in on his lectures for a whole semester to try to figure out how he did it! He had a natural talent that I doubt anyone could duplicate. He didn't need videos, because he provided his own sound track and special effects. He loved to illustrate his points, whether they were written on an overhead or on his PowerPoint presentation, by saying "bong, bong, bong". I sat at the back of the room, completely enthralled and in awe. I could envision him telling stories to Kathy and Brian, as they were small children sitting on his lap--and I'll bet he managed to weave a lesson into each story (and also a few, bong, bong bongs!)

The comments, written by students, on his teaching evaluations, epitomize whom Don was and the impact he had on them. The students repeatedly used the following adjectives to describe him as a professor: awesome, excellent, exceptional, absolutely wonderful, incredible, a great lecturer, a great communicator, first-rate, a great story-teller, a quality college professor, one of Miami's finest, a really nice guy, and one student affectionately referred to Don as a "cool dude".

They wrote on his teaching evaluations that professors like Dr. Cox are rare. That it was a fantastic course--challenging & never dull. He captivates our attention and minds. He possesses a unique ability to relate to his students. We all love him. His own enthusiasm about the material makes it fun and interesting to come to class and study the material. I have to learn the material, if only to know why exactly he loves it so much. I will always remember him fondly. I wish I could have had him for every class at Miami. He provokes a stimulating learning environment. He displays an equality between himself and his students. The next three statements are from the same student: your teaching never ceases to amaze are definitely the best professor I have ever had at Miami...what a great way to end my undergraduate career! Others wrote: His attitude toward students is amazing! It was great to have a professor who can teach and relay information even though they are very smart...he should be a contestant on Who Wants to be a Millionaire!! He really has a gift of being able to explain huge, intimidating concepts in a clear, understandable and fun fashion. His enthusiasm and his cute personifications of microorganisms made this class my favorite. Even when I did poorly on the 1st exam, I felt really motivated by him to keep plugging away. Dr. Cox's historical emphasis is unique and really showed me the need to appreciate past discovery processes. His background stories and experiences put a lot of the required material in a better perspective. His knowledge of the researchers involved in virology made them come alive and we were able to follow their trains of thought as they discovered things. I enjoyed the personal anecdotes he shares about many of the researchers in the field of virology. I will always remember him when I think back on my years at Miami.

ARENT THOSE WONDERFUL COMMENTS? They were taken from the evaluations of his classes in general microbiology--a class of 110-120 students, the other was his class in virology for about 60 students.

His exceptional talents as a teacher have been recognized by his being named a College of Arts and Science distinguished educator; he received the Miami University Alumni Enrichment Award, and also the University of Oklahoma Regents Award for Superior Teaching.

Don was a very special friend, one whom I will miss terribly including our lunches in the 1809 room when we always checked out the dessert tower on the way in to see if they had cherry pie ala mode or coconut cream pie (when he was dieting, I wasn't suppose to tell Nancy).

In many different ways, Don has been a mentor to us all. You seldom walked by without seeing someone in his office chatting with him--either a faculty member, including those from other departments, or one or more students. We all asked him for advice. He and Nancy entertained the students and faculty in their home many times while he was Chair and, even when he was no longer Chair, as each new microbiology faculty member and spouse arrived on campus, Don and Nancy were the first to have them to their home for dinner. Don was always there for me--he was always there for all of us.

In closing I want to share a poem with you that Bill Gracie picked out for me. It's a sonnet by Shakespeare that reminds us that as we go through life, we have regrets about things not done and we weep for the loss of our friends. But those losses and regrets for what we didn't achieve are vanquished when we think of our dear friend, Don Cox, who enriched our lives so much and made such a significant difference. Shakespeare's sonnet #30:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes bewail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye (unused to flow)
For precious friends hid in death's endless night,
And weep afresh love's long since canceled woe,
And moan the loss of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe count over
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I pay anew as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end.

Mary E. Woodworth
August 31, 2000

The inspiration Don conveyed was truly unique among educators. He commanded the respect of others through his delivery of ideas in the most gentle and uplifting way I have ever witnessed. His perspectives on graduate education made the process exciting and very rewarding. The humor Don brought forth was both entertaining and productive in many ways. Don was one of the finest individuals I have had the pleasure to work with. We are all better off having shared time with him. I know I benefited from our collaboration and his guidance almost two decades ago, and his message still helps me grow and produce. Don could be considered by some as a class act, but that would be a gross understatement.
Steven M. Schmid
San Antonio, TX USA - Tuesday, August 14, 2001 at 16:09:04

This is a beautiful tribute to Don's memory. We sincerely thank Dr. Woodworth, Dr. Hooke, Dr. Carlin and the many caring friends, colleagues and students who have shown such an outpouring of love, support and sympathy.
Nancy, Kathy and Brian Cox
Oxford, Ohio USA - Monday, February 05, 2001 at 10:22:09

I didn't know Don as an educator, a mentor, or a chairperson. I knew him as a gentle friend who loved his dog dearly. When bringing Sarah to board, he would also bring a jar of spaghetti sauce for her dry kibble.
Oxford, OH USA - Thursday, February 01, 2001 at 20:42:45

Don is greatly missed. He was my Macintosh co-conspirator, and the void is difficult to fill.
Joseph Carlin
CarlinJM at miamioh dot edu
Oxford, OH USA - Wednesday, January 31, 2001 at 08:44:30

University News Service

Donald C. Cox, 64, professor of microbiology at Miami University and former chair of the microbiology department, died at home early Monday, Aug. 28, of cancer. Recipient of Miami's Distinguished Educator Award for 1991-92, Cox was known as an enthusiastic teacher as well as a respected scientist in cancer research and human viruses. His research focused on the biochemistry and molecular biology of the replication of human viruses. Most recently, he looked at the use of human viruses as tumor therapeutic agents. His work resulted in numerous presentations and publications and was funded by the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Damon Runyon/Walter Winchell Fund for Cancer Research and Procter & Gamble. A strong advocate for attracting young students to careers in science, Professor Cox spoke frequently to schools and community groups on AIDS, cancer and viruses. He joined Miami's faculty in 1978 as chair of the department of microbiology after serving on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma since 1965. He earned a bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. His community involvement included serving as a past president of the Oxford Rotary Club. Cox is survived by his wife, Nancy; a son, Brian C. Cox, of Ashville, N. C.; a daughter, Kathleen A. Cox and son-in-law Scott Miller of Bridgewater, N.J.; and a brother, Robert Cox and sister-in-law Marian of Casper, Wyo. A funeral service was held Thursday, Aug. 31, at Miami's Sesquicentennial Chapel, with visitation at the chapel. Memorials may be made to the Ohio Division of the American Cancer Society, by calling 1-800-ACS-2345, or send to Park 50 Teche Center, 5400 DuPont Circle, Suite J, Milford, Ohio 45150, or the the Miami University Microbiology Department. Smith & Ogle Funeral Home, 101 W. Church St., Oxford, was in charge of arrangements.

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