Influence, Gratitude Spark Alumna's Gift
Influence: Jesus likened it to yeast spreading through the whole lump of dough and causing all of it to rise.
In the 1970s and ’80s at the Austinville Church of Christ in Decatur, Alabama, Jackie (1961) and Libby Sexton Fox (1962 ) were that influence. They spread the message about Christian education in general and Freed-Hardeman College in particular.
Jackie Fox became the minister of the church in 1975. “They immediately encouraged members of the youth group to attend high school weekends and Makin’ Music,” Lisa Robinson Giarratana (’83) remembers. Two years later, four members of the 1977 graduating class chose to attend Freed-Hardeman. The classes of 1979 and ’80 sent another nine students. “By 1983, some 17 students from the Austinville church had chosen to attend FHU,” Giarratana said. “And given that there were probably on average not more than 30 in our youth group at the time, that says a lot about the influence of Jackie and Libby and the students, faculty and staff of FHC!”
Included in that number were Giarrantana’s brother Alan Robinson (’87) and sister Donna Robinson Hammonds (’81). The remaining 14 were: Keith Hammonds (’83), Donald Holmes (‘86), Randy Owens (’87), Tony Owens (’80), LaRon Pressnell (’84), Vicki Pruitt Thompson (’81), Lydia Stetler Howe (’87), Sandy Stetler Sims (’86), Debbie Surles Hill (’83), Lisa Turner Crowe (’78), David Welsh (’83), Tony Woodall (’83), Mark Wright (’81) and Sandra Wright Smartt (’82). Although Jackie died in 1985 from non-Hodgkins lymphoma, his and Libby’s influence continued. Years later, a second generation made its way to Freed-Hardeman.
Giarrantana credits the Foxes with her decision to attend FHC. “The two of them were instrumental in a choice I made that had a profound impact on my future,” she said. “Their testimony convinced me of the benefits of a Christian education; their encouragement prompted me to attend a high school weekend.”
Gratitude: Jesus talked about that too.
This spring, Giarratana returned to Alabama to say thank you. Announcing a gift to Freed-Hardeman University to assist in the restoration of Old Main in memory of Jackie Fox and in honor of Libby Fox, she said, “I will always be indebted to the Foxes because that choice (to attend FHU) was remarkably valuable and rewarding. Freed-Hardeman reinforced the values and confidence that my parents had instilled in me and afforded me opportunities and experiences that prepared me for a career in business and a life of service in the church.”
“In light of the contribution you have made to the lives of so many through FHC, we have donated funds for the restoration of a classroom that will be dedicated to the honor of you and Brother Jackie,” she told Libby. “On behalf of myself, my family and my peers, I thank you.”
Libby Fox, who once described Freed-Hardeman as “the nearest place to heaven on earth,” said, “Being surrounded by people with the same Christian beliefs as yourself and the majority wanting to live like God wants them to, make it like that.” She takes little credit for herself and said her husband would be humbled by the honor. “I, of course, think Jackie is deserving of the recognition because of the love he shared with all of the young people who went to Freed-Hardeman,” she said.
“I can’t begin to say thank you enough for such a wonderful gift,” she said. “To know that our names will always be on those plaques in Old Main is hard to believe.”
The Fox legacy will live on at Freed-Hardeman in another way. This fall, Libby’s grandson, Cameron Richardson, will enroll as a freshman.
Give the Gift of a Lifetime
When you make a planned gift to FHU in someone’s honor, you create a legacy of faith and generosity that endures for generations. To learn about this and other ways to give to FHU, contact Kyle Lamb, CFP® at 1-800-348-3481, ext. 6020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.