As visitors tour the dental school campus, they admire the state-of-the-art facilities and they consistently remark about the friendliness of the people at the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry. A welcoming “hello” and a kind smile go a long way to make everyone at the school, especially visitors, understand the culture here and why the dental school is one big family. And no one embodies the humanistic spirit of the school more than Joanne Fox, director of the Alumni Association. “The magic of Pacific is in its people,” as Dean Emeritus Arthur A. Dugoni ’48 often says. This statement is especially true for this extraordinary individual who has given so much to the dental school for the past 34 years.
Back in October 1981, Joanne Fox came to the dental school for a temporary, six-week data entry job in the Public Relations and Development Office. She completed the project in just one month and Al Gilmour, assistant dean, hired her right away. “I supported both public relations and development which were under Arlene Burbank and Al Gilmour at the time, and I also helped Leroy Cagnone who was in charge of the Alumni Association,” Joanne recalls. “Even though I was not officially with the Alumni Association, I was already working with it and organizing events.”
Joanne worked for the Public Relations and Development Office for the next 18 months, until Dean Dugoni hired her as an administrative assistant in administration. “The school had such a positive, supportive feeling from the get go,” said Joanne. “Everyone was so welcoming.” While working in the Dean’s Office, Joanne supported both Drs. Dugoni and Dave Nielsen ’67, assistant dean of administration, who was also the newly named executive director of the Alumni Association. In 1985, Joanne and Nielsen planned the first of 30 Annual Alumni Meetings together.
Joanne also coordinated many of the school’s signature events and programs, such as Asilomar, OKU Convocation, Dean’s Graduation Luncheon, First-Year Orientation, Faculty Retreat, along with many regional alumni events. It was at the Asilomar Conference in February 1982 when she happened to greet a third-year student, Michael Fox, at the Friday night welcome where they sat together. They have been married for 28 years and have three daughters: Denise, Alanna and Justine.
In 1995, Joanne became coordinator of the Alumni Association. She moved to the first floor suite in the 2155 Webster building and worked solely for Nielsen. It was still just a two-person operation running the association. Joanne became the friendly voice and face of the Alumni Association—the person who talked to alumni on the phone or greeted them when they visited the school or came to alumni events. Her attention to detail and willingness to do whatever it took to get the job done—even working seven days a week at times—was, and continues to be, impressive. And, everyone appreciates her warm and graceful demeanor even under the most stressful situations.
In 2008, Dr. Darryl Lee ’77, president of the association at the time, wanted Joanne to have a title to better reflect what she did for the Alumni Association. A decision was made and Joanne was named assistant director of the Alumni Association.
“I was privileged and fortunate to work with Joanne Fox for more than 30 years, first as one of my administrative assistants and later as assistant director of our Alumni Association,” said Dugoni. “In tandem with Dr. David Nielsen, they created the best dental Alumni Association in the United States.”
Dr. Nader Nadershahi ’94, interim dean, named Joanne director of the Alumni Association in January 2016. She continues to manage staff members Andrea Woodson, coordinator, who was hired in 2005, and Marceyl Jones, administrative assistant, who recently joined the team. “Joanne has a deep understanding and knowledge of the dental school family and will help us continue nurturing those wonderful relationships as director of our Alumni Association in the years ahead,” said Nadershahi.
As director, Joanne would like to increase dues-paying membership among the nearly 8,000 alumni and increase attendance at the Annual Alumni Meeting. “We want to engage the millennials and younger alums and find out what they need from us,” she says. “When younger graduates come to our events they benefit and see the positives of the personal interactions with their classmates and older alumni.”
“Every year, there is a different president heading the Alumni Association,” Joanne says. “Each president has a different vision and a different way to work with the Alumni Board. It makes my job interesting because we collaborate and advise each other, and I also get to know so many dynamic alumni officers and board members.”
Before coming to the dental school, Joanne worked in the banking industry for 10 years, starting as a part-time teller in college. She worked in the commercial and loan departments at Bank of America and San Francisco Federal Savings and Loan which according to Joanne, “Like the Dugoni School, it was another Camelot place to work.”
“There is such a joyful camaraderie among all of the people in the building,” Joanne says. “I have developed relationships with so many individuals over the years, and it is fun to find out what our alumni are up to when they come back to visit. My job has been decades of meeting and working with people.”
“Joanne lives the following virtues of exceptional leadership, which include enjoying and excelling in her work, believing in the organization and its mission, understanding where she fits in the grand scheme of things and she is loyal to her team,” says Dugoni. “Her intelligence, passion and caring is a model for everyone she works with.”
Joanne’s genuine personality and her ability to connect with people, especially alumni, are qualities that make her unique. She has received the Medallion of Distinction award and honorary membership in both the Omicron Kappa Upsilon and Tau Kappa Omega dental honor societies. She is a dedicated employee whose warm and caring demeanor continues to grace the halls of the Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry.
And for that, we are all fortunate.