Jonathan Fox wears a locket engraved with his daughter’s left thumb print; inside are some of her ashes.
“I carry her with me everywhere,” said Fox of Newton, Mississippi. “She always said she wanted to go to work with me and now she does.”
In October 2018, Luckyday Scholar Hailey Fox was killed in an automobile accident on her way back to the University of Mississippi after a weekend at home. She had recovered from a brain tumor shortly before the accident that took her life.
Recently the Hailey Marie Fox Memorial Scholarship Fund was established in her memory at Ole Miss with a generous gift from a donor who asked to remain anonymous.
“Hearing about the scholarship in my daughter’s name gave me a proud-dad moment,” Fox said. “I am humbled, honored.
“There is a sense of awe in our home,” he continued. “Having the scholarship in Hailey’s name is a great way to remember her short time with us and to carry on her legacy.”
Fox enrolled at Ole Miss as a member of the 2018 Luckyday Program. Patrick Perry, director of Luckyday programs and instructional assistant professor of higher education, met her at a scholars retreat a week prior to the fall semester beginning.
“My favorite memory of Hailey was seeing her hang out in the Luckyday Residential College lobby with friends and engaging those she didn’t know in conversation to make new friends,” he said. “She would sit in one particular blue chair and that’s where she would hold court. She was always surrounded by people. Everyone loved her.”
Friends and family say Fox wanted to be a pediatric nurse, so she could help children fight cancer the way her nurses helped her battle craniopharyngioma.
“Hailey was always positive and when asked about how she was doing she would say, ‘I’m awesome.’ That was her personal motto,” he recalled. “Hailey inspired all of us to be better people, and we were blessed to have her in our lives.”
Fox decided to attend Ole Miss after participating in the inaugural 2015 Grisham Fellows Program, sponsored by UM alumnus and former Newton resident Bruce Ware and his wife, Rhondalynne, in honor of former UM professors Vaughn and Sandy Grisham. Through the program, students from Newton High School are invited to tour the university’s Oxford, Mississippi, campus.
“Hailey fell in love with the campus. From that trip on, she had her heart and soul set on attending Ole Miss,” her mother, Shannon Fox, said. “There was no changing her mind!”
In her own words — from a video in which the then-10th grader was interviewed after her campus visit — Fox said, “Just being able to go on this trip [while] being a sophomore and just being able to experience a college like that is just so amazing.”
Bruce Ware became a mentor to Fox because, he said, they share a similar story. Both struggled with childhood health challenges; both visited Ole Miss as high school students and immediately recognized its potential to be transformative in their lives; both were blessed with parents who supported their desire to excel; and both were able to pursue their dreams of higher education thanks to the generosity of others.
“Hailey was blessed with the gifts of grit, imagination, intellectual curiosity, an indomitable will and steely resolve. Those gifts enabled her to fight valiantly against cancer and they got her admitted and started at her dream school, Ole Miss,” Ware said.
“Though we miss Hailey dearly, we are comforted in knowing that as future students receive her scholarship, her memory will continue on.”
In addition to her love for Ole Miss, Fox enjoyed making cookies for neighbors, playing with her dog Rusty, painting pictures, and selling handmade parachute cord bracelets, key chains and awareness ribbons. She also loved a good manicure.
Sydney Mitchell, a senior biochemistry and Spanish major from Raymond, Mississippi, was Fox’s Luckyday team leader and mentor.
“I loved her positive disposition on life. She went through so much, more than anyone her age should ever have to go through or much less has even gone through, but she was filled with joy, peace, and love. She was such a light, even in the darkest of times,” Mitchell said.
“She could talk with literally anyone, and she was able to get them to open up and feel comfortable as well. She spread so much love to others and always put others before herself. Her genuine sprit was captivating and contagious as well. She was unlike any person I had ever met.”
Marlo Morris, Fox’s peer leader in the Luckyday Program, remembered her friend through tears at an October 2019 ceremony announcing the scholarship fund.
“I liked her spirit. She was always so nice and looked at the positive sides of everything,” said Morris, a senior biology major from Jackson, Mississippi. “Don’t forget Hailey and her story.”
There are no worries of that happening. The scholarship in her name ensures she will be remembered as generations of UM students will carry her forward as they gain the knowledge that will help them realize their dreams. Maybe some will become nurses.
The Hailey Marie Fox Memorial Scholarship Fund is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks may be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the endowment noted in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts can also be made online by visiting give.olemiss.edu.
For more information on supporting student scholarships, contact Brett Barefoot, senior director of development for parent and family leadership, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2711.
By Bill Dabney