Early in life, before finding his way to the Eller College of Management and McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship, before landing a Wall Street career, and before the events of 9/11 that took his life, Fred J. Cox, “Freddy” to his dad, had a sink-or-swim, bootstrap business education: he sold books door to door.
Anyone in sales will tell you that cold-calling—reaching out to sell something to someone who doesn’t know you and has expressed zero interest in your product—is demoralizing. For most who try, it’s a barely tolerable way to spend lots of time making very little money. But not for Fred.
“It taught him how to be disciplined and focused,” recalls his dad, also Fred Cox. “He was given a territory, mostly in the Deep South. He had to manage his books and cover his own expenses. He was an independent contractor—no salary, all on a commission basis. And Freddy made money doing it. He made a couple thousand bucks a month and did that for a couple years.”
More importantly, the experience gave Fred direction. “It really helped him understand how different people live and support themselves,” explains Cox, now retired from a career in resort development. “He realized that he’d better get into a profession that’s going to generate some income and security. It gave him purpose and the drive to complete his education.”
Endings and Beginnings
Fred did just that, graduating from the Eller College with a bachelor’s in entrepreneurship in 1997. Four years later, while living in New York City, he lost his life. What began as an ordinary work day at Sandler O’Neill & Partners, whose offices were on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s south tower, ended for him in the 9/11 attacks.
Fred’s death inspired friends and educators to honor his outstanding character with a new scholarship, and each year since, the McGuire Center has pieced together a modest award in Fred’s name. Last year, his college roommate, Gene Kansas, joined with the UA Foundation, the Eller College and Fred’s father to spearhead endowing a fund in honor of Fred—a campaign now in its final months.
Beginning in spring 2019, the Frederick J. Cox Endowment will annually reward outstanding student(s) with a focus on entrepreneurship, honoring the qualities that not only made young Fred a rock star salesman but also a distinguished Eller alumnus in a coveted career: drive, brio, grit.
Advancing a Meaningful Life
“I’m hoping that the students will be of high-energy, high-integrity and have a passion to do something meaningful with their lives,” says Cox, whose own $100,000 gift serves as a cornerstone to the endowment. “It doesn’t have to be in business. People choose different paths and lives. They can go through the McGuire Center and become an artist, as far as I’m concerned. As long as they do what they have a great passion for, and do it with energy and integrity.”
It’s easy to hear in those words the echoes of Karl Eller, a titan of entrepreneurship, author of Integrity Is All You’ve Got, a role model to Cox and, of course, namesake of the college that meant so much to his son. “The Eller College really prepared Fred for that move to New York,” Cox says. “To think on his feet and to be independent and mentally focused—with the education he got there and the opportunities he got at UA, it’s where he should be memorialized. It’s where his heart and soul was.”
Support the Eller College
The Frederick J. Cox Endowment will be set up to assist rising-star students with financial need. Consider making a gift today.
Checks: Payable to “UA Foundation – Eller College,” Memo “FJC Endowment”
Attn: Jessica Thornburg
Eller College of Management
The University of Arizona
P.O. Box 210108, Room 417
Tucson, AZ 85721