Archdeacon: Dr. Jonathan Cox adds to his Stivers’ resume

You could say he’s trying to make the world a little more like Stivers High School.

“I thought it was a great school, I loved it,” Dr. Jonathan Cox, a 2002 Stivers grad, said from his home in Washington D.C.. “The teachers were great and some of my best friends are from back then.”

A track standout in high school, Cox specialized in the long jump, and was a City League, district, and regional champion. He qualified for the state meet as a junior, finished eighth, and was the MVP of the Tigers team as a senior.

During his high school years he was in multiple choirs, specialized in creative writing, graduated with a 4.3 grade-point average and was offered several academic scholarships.

This Sunday, at age 40, he will add to his resume when he joins 11 other memorable Tigers and is inducted into the Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame.

“The experiences I had in Dayton have been instrumental in my life,” said Cox, who left a life of academia last year to join the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) in Washington. D.C.. “The relationships I was able to build with some of my classmates in high school crossed racial boundaries.

“But afterward, when I went other places in my life, I realized ‘Oh, this is not the norm. Everyone hasn’t lived like I lived.’

“Seeing those stark differences — seeing the people I grew up with and was friends with compared to the friends I met when I travelled and went elsewhere — that got me to look at things differently. It got me to try to do something to make a positive impact on the world.”

After Stivers, Cox chose Hampton University, the prestigious HBCU near Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. Although on a full academic scholarship, he was a track athlete for the Pirates for 3½ seasons.

From there, he got his master’s at Penn State University and then a second master’s and doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Maryland.

After serving as an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Central Florida and the assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Wake Forest, he joined the D.C. non-profit foundation last June.

As the vice president of center policy, analysis, and research, he works to address disparities in the global black community. Among other things, he deals with issues of diversity, inclusion, healthcare disparities, social justice and racism.

Although there has been a push by some politicians to downplay and discredit such critical issues and, in some cases, dismantle programs that try to address them, Cox is undeterred:

“Any type of issue takes a lot of people pushing in a lot of different ways and for a long time before it works. I want to be a part of that forward progress.

“I think it was Martin Luther King who talked about the arc of justice — (King said: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,”) — and that is something I do believe in. It’s very difficult, but I do believe equality and justice will prevail.”

Cox and his wife Charissa have a 2 ½-year-old daughter, Amaya, and she is foremost on his mind:

“With a young daughter now, I’m trying to leave this world a little bit better for her and those who grow up with her.”

Roots in education

Cox is the son of two longtime Dayton educators.

His mother is the Rev. Dr. Donna Cox, a professor of music at the University of Dayton who served as the chair of UD’s Department of Music for seven years.

A choral conductor, her ensemble — Ebony Heritage Sings, UD’s gospel choir — has performed around the world. She been a featured speaker and choral adjudicator at college and conferences across the nation and has conducted clinics and performances around the globe, from Ireland and England to several trips to Ghana.

She received a master’s in theological studies at UD and is now a licensed minister.

For many years, Cox’s dad — Gerald Cox — was a teacher and administrator in local public schools, including in Beavercreek and Huber Heights, and for many years he served as the principal of Trotwood Madison High School.

Cox said his parents stressed education for both him and his younger sister, Jamie, now a photographer with J Renee Creations in Dayton.

“Jonathan was a scholar from the moment he was born,” his mother said. “He was a child who wanted to learn to read and write as soon as he could hold a book and a pencil.”

While he said his parents held high expectations for his academic performance, Cox said they also were his biggest fans when he was competing in sports, whether it was track, swimming, golf, or basketball.

“Jonathan is a natural athlete but seeing him excel in track was truly a highlight of the family,” Donna Cox said.

“Participating in athletics does great things for people in preparing them for life,” Jonathan said. “You learn teamwork, camaraderie, motivation, how to push yourself, so many things.”

He chose Hampton because he wanted the HBCU experience after hearing his mother talk about her college life. She had gone to Virginia Union University, an HBCU in Richmond that is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches.

“When Jonathan graduated from Hampton, one of his professors told us he expected him to be a college president at some point,” his mother said. “As a college professor myself, I recognize the attributes that make an academic and I saw that and more in my son.

“We are very proud of him, and it seems almost daily that more things build on that pride. We’re especially proud of the work he’s now doing with the national Black Caucus Foundation.”

Recent meddling by certain Florida politicians has hampered some educational efforts in the state — especially in matters of race, but while Cox said teaching there “was not easy now,” he added that’s not why he switched to a non-profit foundation:

“I just wanted to make a broader impact in the world and see the results a little more quickly. And the CBCF offered me that opportunity.

“And while I love what I do now, one day I feel I may be back in education in some capacity. I do miss the students.”

An accomplished, diverse class

Cox is part of one of the most accomplished and certainly the most diverse induction classes in the 19-year history of the Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame.

This year’s enshrinees include: Lee Fenner (1915); David Biddle (1967); William Penn (2000); Benjamin Hinton (2002); Seante Turner Metcalf (2003); Kelly Adrian Ellinger (2003); Brittany Collins (2003); Thomas Hoy (2005); and Julian Jeter Davis (2010).

Basketball coach Carlos Roberts and former athlete, Vietnam vet and accomplished artist Eddie Orr (1963) are Special Recognition recipients.

The enshrinement festivities begin Sunday at noon at the Presidential Banquet Center in Kettering. A social hour will be followed by a luncheon and the induction ceremony goes from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Bill Hosket Jr. — the former Ohio State basketball standout, an NBA champion with the New York Knicks and the son of Stivers Hall of Fame legend Bill Hosket Sr. — will again emcee the proceedings.

There will be a remembrance of the late Don Donoher, the iconic coach of the Dayton Flyers who co-hosted the event with Hosket for many years.

“Stivers was a wonderful place for our son,” Donna Cox said. “He received a quality education. His primary focus was creative writing and while he was there, he was known as a non-poet poet.

“His teachers were some of his biggest supporters and he made lifelong friends with other students. We couldn’t have chosen a better school.”

And now the school is choosing him for its Hall of Fame.

“It feels good to know some of the things I did, even back in high school, are still considered meaningful,” he said. “I think this is an incredible honor.”

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