Don’t ask Virginia Fox about education unless you have some time. A lifelong educator who is now secretary of Kentucky’s Education Cabinet, Fox has not only given the matter a lot of thought—she has made education her career and passion for more than 40 years, and she is still pioneering ways to make education more effective.
In honor of her remarkable success, Fox will receive this year’s Winners Circle Award given by the National Association of Women’s Business Owners. The award recognizes a Kentucky woman who has shown outstanding leadership and financial stamina and control, contributed to her community through time and resources, understands and resolves complex issues, and is dedicated to furthering women in business through personal support and mentoring.
For Fox, success in business or any other area of life starts with an ever-increasing foundation in education. “I don’t think of higher education, secondary education, and elementary education,” Fox says. “I think of a continuum that starts with preschool. Lifelong learning—that’s what it’s all about.”
Fox says education is too important to be left exclusively to educators. “If you have children, get involved with their school and a site-based council,” Fox advises. “Get active in the PTO or PTA. Adopt a school. If it’s possible, run for the school board. Get knowledgeable about what is happening at the university you care most about. Find out if there is training available for business and industry.”
One of most effective things to do to support education is also one of the simplest. “Read to children,” Fox suggests. “The single most important indicator of success in school is whether children have been read to. Don’t wait until they get to school. Organize groups of families within your church to read to children.
“Be positive. Look for solutions. Encourage a child, a teacher, a parent. Some parents, particularly those who did not have a successful school experience, value education but don’t know how to navigate the system.”
Fox has been at the forefront of that system her entire life. After graduating from Morehead State University in 1961, she taught elementary school for four years and was an elementary school librarian for three years. She was also a university instructor for three summers.
Along the way, Fox completed a master’s degree at the University of Kentucky and participated in an advanced management development program at Harvard as well as programs in organizational development, strategic computing and telecommunications.
She left the school system in 1968 to join what was then a fledgling television network called Kentucky Educational Television (KET). Fox quickly grasped the potential of the medium, and by 1975 she was KET’s deputy executive director, working hand-in-hand with founder O. Leonard Press.
Fox and Press led KET to national prominence. They created the GED on TV series for adults needing a high school diploma (a successor of which is still in national distribution). They introduced college on TV and nightly coverage of the Kentucky General Assembly. They began KET’s public affairs programming and oversaw KET productions, many of which have been broadcast nationally.
Fox left KET only once—to become president of the Southern Educational Communications Association. She returned in 1980, and when Press retired in 1981 she assumed leadership of KET.