NewsUNC Charlotte

Gerald “Jerry” Fox, a Stalwart of Public Service and Pillar at UNC Charlotte, Is Mourned

The academic and public service communities are mourning the loss of Gerald “Jerry” Fox, the esteemed namesake of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Master of Public Administration Program, who passed away on March 27 at the age of 91. Fox, whose distinguished career in public service and academia left an indelible mark on Mecklenburg County and the university, is remembered as a visionary leader whose contributions transcended his tenure as county manager from 1980 to 2000.

After retiring from a laudable career that spanned five decades in public service, Fox didn’t retreat to a quiet life of leisure. Instead, he brought his wealth of experience to the university, serving as a part-time faculty member in the MPA program, a role he relished and utilized to shape the next generation of public servants.

His involvement didn’t stop at teaching. Fox was a founding member of the UNC Charlotte Practitioner Advisory Board, an entity committed to the enrichment and advancement of the MPA program and its students. “Jerry taught in the MPA program over the course of two decades. He was involved in many of our events, including mentoring students, funding scholarships and student travel,” remarked Suzanne Leland, professor and MPA program director. “We will miss Jerry; he had such a full and wonderful life dedicated to public service and was a valuable member of the UNC Charlotte community.”

The MPA program, initially launched in 1976 as the Master of Urban Administration, was renamed in 1987 to more accurately reflect its broader scope. In 2012, the program was honored to adopt Fox’s name, coinciding with the establishment of the Gerald G. Fox MPA Endowment Fund. Under his guidance and patronage, the program has achieved national recognition, now ranked No. 46 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Fox’s legacy is not just in the structures he helped build or the programs he supported, but in the values he embodied: managerial acumen, professionalism, respect for the democratic process, and personal integrity. These are the cornerstones upon which the MPA program seeks to build its students’ futures.

In a poignant tribute to his contributions, Mecklenburg County Commissioner and Chair George Dunlap, an alumnus of the MPA program, honored Fox in 2019 with a county proclamation that declared Aug. 1 “Jerry Fox Day” in Mecklenburg County, a testament to his profound impact on the community.

Cheryl Brown, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, reflected on Fox’s dedication: “Jerry was instrumental in making major contributions to Mecklenburg County and to the Master of Public Administration program. He was eager to participate in every MPA event and really committed to supporting the students, faculty, and staff in the program.”

As the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the broader community reflect on Jerry Fox’s monumental contributions, his legacy of service, mentorship, and leadership continues to inspire. Jerry Fox’s memory will undoubtedly endure, a beacon for those who aspire to make a difference through public service.

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