A man of many stories: Remembering Dr. Harold Cox

Genny Frederick, News Editor

Dr. Harold Cox, professor emeritus of history and university archivist died on Sept. 8 at the age of 90. 

The distinguished member of the Wilkes University community was beloved throughout campus by faculty, staff and students alike, but what so many remember Cox by is the stories he told. 

Dr. Jonathan Ference, associate provost for student success, remembered Cox’s stories and anecdotes from his early years at Wilkes. 

“Dr. Cox served as an invaluable resource of institutional memory for those faculty, staff and students joining the Wilkes community,” Ference said. “In particular, when I first joined the faculty I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Harold and getting to know the institution better.

“He most certainly provided new community members with an accurate recollection of Wilkes historical facts, but was also able to weave into his recollections stories that typified what it meant to be a ‘family of colonels.’ I am sure it was this flair for storytelling and passion for Wilkes that endeared Dr. Cox to generations of Wilkes students, faculty and staff.”

Cox began working at Wilkes College in 1963 and saw the university move from its first president to its current president. Watching so many years of Wilkes history supplemented the archival work he did. 

As the first and only university archivist during his time, the 40 years of work Cox put into collecting and recording archival data is what allowed the Wilkes archives to be what they are today. Cox’s work earned him the distinction of having the university archives room named after him in 2013. 

The room is currently on the third floor of the Farley Library. 

Dr. Harold Cox with former Wilkes University President Patrick Leahy in 2015. Courtesy of Marketing Communications

Outside of the archival work, Cox served many positions on campus including faculty coordinator of graduate education, chair of the History Department, faculty adviser to the president, interim dean, and a member of the creative writing graduate program faculty. 

Dr. Bonnie Culver, former director of the Maslow Graduate Program in Creative Writing, recalled that Cox would work out with the football and wrestling teams. She also explained that his proudest moment was serving others. 

“He was most proud of his work in the 1990s on staff and faculty salaries and benefits that allowed Wilkes to pay competitive salaries and provide a significant increase in staff benefits.”

Giving to others, and to the university at large was a large part of the legacy he left behind. Cox gave a $165,000 donation to the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing. 

This donation allowed the creative writing program to renovate its building. The building was renamed in 2015 to Dr. Harold Cox Hall, the second part of campus named in honor of him. Cox’s gift benefitted all those who walked through the building. 

Cox also donated to the Wilkes Speech and Debate team to help continue the program. 

Dr. Terese Wignot, associate provost for academic partnerships, reflected on all Cox did for the university. 

“Dr. Harold Cox was truly a valuable member of our Wilkes community. He was a faculty voice and leader on campus for many years and was very student-centric,” Wignot said. “He made innumerable contributions to the archives at the university and to the creative writing program, all well after his retirement.”

Wignot also recalled Cox’s stories. 

“He always had a story to tell about the history of Wilkes and the area.”

Outside of Wilkes, Cox received his undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and earned his doctorate in history from the University of Virginia. 

Cox was a U.S. Army veteran, serving in active duty from 1954 to 1956. He then served in the U.S. Army Reserve for an additional 30 years, achieving the rank of command sergeant major. 

According to his obituary, Cox is survived by his spouse, Robert Reite and a son, Michael. Memorial donations may be made to the Alzheimer’s Association.