SMU and the Cox School of Business mourn the passing of renowned Dallas business leader, entrepreneur, public servant, educational pioneer, University supporter and trustee emeritus Edwin L. Cox, Sr. ’42, who died Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. He had celebrated his 99th birthday on Oct. 20 and remained engaged with family and friends until his passing.
“Edwin Cox’s contributions to and enthusiasm for this University and the Cox School of Business are invaluable. He was an inspiring influence for every person who crossed his path, and his work with and for his community has reached across generations,” says SMU President R. Gerald Turner. “He will remain an example of tireless drive, selfless spirit and boundless energy to the students of Cox and of SMU for generations to come. He is missed, not only because of his determination to make the Cox School a globally recognized institution, but also because of his character and his unwavering commitment to the students of SMU and to the people of Dallas.”
Cox was the chair and CEO of the Edwin L. Cox Company and the former chair of Cox Oil & Gas Inc., SEDCO Inc. and the Keebler Company. Previously known as SMU’s School of Business Administration, the Edwin L. Cox School of Business was named in Mr. Cox’s honor in 1978 in recognition of his generous support for and service to SMU. Mr. Cox’s leadership and involvement helped elevate the quality of Cox School students, faculty, programs and relationships among the Dallas business community. Cox was a long-standing member of the Cox Executive Board and founded the Cox Distinguished MBA Scholars Program, the Business Leadership Center for graduate students and the Edwin L. Cox BBA Leadership Institute for undergraduates. In 2007, Cox provided a challenge to establish the Edwin L. Cox BBA Scholars Program, which provides merit-based undergraduate scholarships.
“Ed Cox was one of the first people I met when I came to campus to interview for my current position,” says Matthew B. Myers, dean of the Cox School, Tolleson Chair of Business Leadership and David B. Miller Endowed Professor in Business. “His presence convinced me that I wanted to work with him to take the Cox School to even greater heights. Ed Cox epitomized the can-do spirit that defines the Cox School, SMU and Dallas.” Myers became Cox’s ninth dean in 2017.
Throughout his 20-year tenure as dean, Myers’ predecessor Al Niemi worked closely with Mr. Cox, shaping the school’s future. “Ed Cox was a visionary, and he was passionate about continuous improvement,” Niemi says. “With his support, we were able to focus on raising student quality in all of our programs and on providing leadership training across our curriculum.”
Cox served as an honorary chair of SMU’s Second Century Campaign Steering Committee during SMU Unbridled: The Second Century Campaign, which concluded in 2015 after raising $1.15 billion. He was named a trustee emeritus in 1991, after serving as a vice chair of SMU’s board of trustees from 1973 to 1976 and as chair of SMU’s board of trustees from 1976 to 1987. He served on the University’s board of governors from 1969 to 1987, including a term as chair from 1974 to 1976, and as chair of the national steering committee for SMU’s Design for the Third Generation capital campaign from 1975 to 1983. He also served on the Cox School of Business Capital Campaign Committee, the Maguire Energy Institute Advisory Board, the Meadows School of the Arts executive board and on the SMU Foundation for Business Administration.
“Ed’s impact on SMU, and on the Cox School of Business, cannot be overstated,” says Brad Cheves, vice president for development and external affairs. “His vision and support for educating future business leaders will be felt for generations. This is a tremendous loss, and while we honor his life, we also remember how lucky we are that we could call him a Mustang.”
Cox attended SMU’s School of Commerce from 1938 to 1940. At SMU, he was a member of the Mustang Band, Phi Delta Theta, Alpha Kappa Psi and Alpha Phi Omega.
In 1942, he graduated from the University of Texas with a BBA. He also earned industrial administration and MBA degrees from Har- vard University in 1943 and 1946, respectively. He served in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II, achieving the rank of lieutenant.
Cox was recently honored with the Cox School’s inaugural Visionary Award (see opposite page). The University presented him with its SMU Distinguished Alumni Award in 1974. He also received the SMU Volunteer of the Year Award in 1985 and The Mustang Award in recognition of outstanding philanthropy in 1996.
Cox’s corporate board service included CoreComm Ltd., Dr Pepper, the East Texas Salt Water Disposal Company, Gillette, FiNet Hold- ings, Halliburton Company, InterFirst Corp., LTV Aerospace Corp., Southwestern Life Insurance Company and Women First Healthcare Inc. He served as a director or member of the Amer- ican Enterprise Institute, American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Dallas Wildcat Committee, Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association, National Petroleum Council, Texas Energy Advisory Council and Texas Mid-Conti- nent Oil and Gas Association. In 1990, Cox was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame and received the John Rogers Award from the Institute for Energy Law in 1985.
He was the founder, president and trustee of the Ed Cox Foundation, which made a gift to the Library of Congress in 2007 to establish the Edwin L. Cox American Legacy Endowment. He was also a trustee of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation.
Cox served on the Dallas Museum of Art board of trustees, including a term as chair. He was a past president of the Dallas Citizens Council, a member of the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas board of directors and the Dallas Salvation Army advisory board and a vice chairman of the Library of Congress James Madison Council. He was a lifetime honorary member of the board of trustees for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
His additional civic service includes the American Red Cross, Dallas Assembly, Dallas Society for Crippled Children, Dallas Zoological Society, Hope Cottage Children’s Bureau, Library of Congress Trust Fund, Presbyterian Hospital, Texas Cancer Society, UT Cancer Foundation, UT Southwestern Medical Center and World Affairs Council.