Ann Fox spent the majority of her career serving others.
In recognition of that work, the two-time Newman graduate — she received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1981 and a master’s degree in organizational leadership in 2001 — was recently awarded HumanKind Ministries’ Leadership Through Action Award at its 2021 Humanitarian Awards Benefit in Wichita.
“It’s very, very humbling,” Fox said of the award. “To be chosen to stand up and accept recognition, it’s really a reflection of all the people who do that work together.”
Fox added that she accepted the Leadership Through Action Award because it brings attention to the need for affordable housing — something she and her husband are deeply passionate about.
A winding road
For the past 10 years, Fox was the executive director at Wichita Habitat for Humanity, where she embodied the organization’s credo that everyone deserves access to safe and affordable housing. She recently retired, but during her tenure, the organization helped more than 125 Wichita families achieve their dream of owning a home.
Fox’s career leading up to her time at Wichita Habitat for Humanity prepared her greatly for that role. After graduating from Newman, she started working in a hospital, where she was asked to lead its volunteer program. Fox said it was through that work that she realized the power of motivating people by attaching them to the purpose and impact of their work.
From there, she went on to serve as director of nursing facilities for the Adorers of the Blood of Christ’s Wichita Center. At one point during her tenure, the facility underwent a remodel. The general contractor for that project was owned by Newman graduate Bob Simpson, who told Fox that if she ever wanted to change career paths, she should come work for him.
So she did.
Fox spent the next five years at Simpson Construction Services before taking a role at Newman as the director of alumni relations. This was an especially fun role because two of Fox’s children were attending the university at the same time.
“Then I got the call that was like, ‘OK, this is why I did all these things,’” Fox said of her next career move to become the executive director of Wichita Habitat for Humanity.
Building homes, communities and hope through service
Fox was well-suited for the job as she had experience working with both volunteers and construction — a combination that’s hard to find.
“Habitat really felt like a call that my whole life had prepared me for that work,” she said.
Fox added that because of her time in nursing homes and her life with a handicapped son, she has seen the impact of living spaces on the quality of life. The same goes for low-income families.
“You can’t imagine what it’s like to see a kid who’s never lived in a house with a working bathtub get to have a bathroom in his home or a private space to study in a bedroom of his own,” she said. “It was an incredible honor to be able to do that work.”
Ultimately, Fox reflects on her career as one of being called to do something.
“I never really chose a path,” she said. “It chose me.”
And like herself, Fox hopes that current Newman students feel the push to pursue a life a service as well.
“Because that is how you transform society,” she said. “It’s by finding that thing that’s important to you and then giving of yourself freely to do the work. When you’re doing it freely, somehow the reward to me is that much more profound.”
At Newman University, service work is inherent
Throughout the year, the Newman University community takes part in multiple service projects that better the campus, the community and even the world.
Service is an integral part of an education at Newman and in the past, students have worked more than 260,400 collective service hours in one year.