Mark Twain wrote, “No man is a failure who has friends.” Coach Wally Fox certainly proved this statement true in his 49 years as an Adventist educator.
In 1975, Fox, along with his wife, Mary Ellen, and their daughter, Jennifer, moved to Calhoun, Ga., where Fox became the physical education teacher at Georgia-Cumberland Academy (GCA). Prior to his arrival in Georgia, Fox served six years in the same role at Maplewood Academy in Minnesota. Very quickly, he endeared himself to both staff and students as an educator who loved people and was especially skilled at building relationships.
Fox influenced many young lives at Maplewood Academy and Georgia-Cumberland Academy, but his influence spread beyond these schools. Fox regularly attended professional meetings for Adventist physical educators and was regarded as an expert in his field. In 2017 he was recognized with the Service Award from the Seventh-day Adventist Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Association at meetings in Stoneham, Mass. He was also recognized as an educational leader in the Southern Union, and during his successful tenure at GCA, the athletic program grew to include varsity sports in basketball, volleyball, and soccer. In addition to his educational expertise, Fox successfully attracted donors to the sports program through his deep connections to people. Fox’s balanced approach to sports emphasized character development and sportsmanship more than winning. He wanted his students to have fun and, at the same time, develop skills that would enhance physical health throughout life.
In 2018, the new gymnasium/cafeteria complex at Georgia-Cumberland Academy was named the Wally Fox Wellness Center to honor the legacy of this man who gave 43 years of his life to mentoring and loving young people at GCA.
After retiring in 2018, the Foxes shared their time between Calhoun, Ga., and Palm Coast, Fla. It was in Florida this past summer where Wally and Mary Ellen became ill with COVID-19. While Mary Ellen improved, Wally’s health declined enough to be hospitalized. Fox went to sleep in Jesus on September 15, 2021.
While it is difficult to truly describe the work, impact, and connections that made up the life of Wally Fox, we can safely say this of him. Most importantly, he was a man of God. Fox demonstrated God’s love and daily lived out what he believed. He was also a dedicated family man. Wally and Mary Ellen were happily married 54 years at the time of his death. In addition, he was a devoted father and grandfather to daughter, Jennifer, and his grandchildren, Gage and Gracie. Finally, he was a true friend and mentor to thousands.
While reflecting on the impact of Coach Fox, his kindness and thoughtfulness toward all are the traits for which he is most consistently and fondly remembered. Melanie DiBiase, former student and colleague said, “Wally was a great example of how to prioritize the most important things. When I think of the many years I had the privilege of observing him and learning from his example — first as a GCA student and then as a GCA staff member — I feel blessed! I witnessed Wally enact and consistently attend to his mission to introduce students to Jesus through his ever-generous spirit, his approachable demeanor, and his open heart.”
Greg Gerard, GCA principal, summed up Fox’s life and work as an educator. “Wally Fox understood and lived that central concept of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and what is means to be a teacher. He practiced what Ellen White urged Christian educators to do: ‘If they would oftener gather the children about them, and manifest an interest in their work, and even in their sports, they would gain the love and confidence of the little ones, and the lesson of respect and obedience would be far more readily learned; for love is the best teacher,’” Fundamentals of Christian Education, pg. 58.
Coach Wally Fox certainly understood and lived the idea that “love is the best teacher.”
Georgia-Cumberland | December 2021