Raymond D. Fox, Ph.D., GSS ’67, professor emeritus of the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) and a prolific academic perhaps best known for his teaching techniques, died of cancer at his home in South Orange, New Jersey, on Dec. 2. He was 78.
Known by colleagues as a “master teacher,” Fox taught a course at the Graduate School of Social Service titled Teaching for the Profession, intended for doctoral candidates who would go on to instruct Master of Social Work students. He later highlighted key concepts from the course for lectures and seminars that he delivered to colleagues from other Fordham schools and beyond. In 2009 the New York State Social Work Educator’s Association named him Teacher of the Year. He retired from Fordham in 2012 after 35 years of teaching, and one year later parlayed his philosophy into a book titled Call to Teach: Philosophy, Process, and Pragmatics of Social Work Education (Council on Social Work Education, 2013).
Molloy College Professor Maureen Carey, Ph.D., GSS ’95, said Fox integrated social work theory with a personable delivery. He developed a technique he referred to as “split-screen,” which encouraged professors to view themselves from the student’s perspective, she said, recalling that he taught the technique in a rather surreptitious manner. He would animatedly draw students into his lecture and wait until he had their rapt attention before abruptly interrupting his talk with a simple question.
“What just happened there?” he’d ask the students.
Fox would then prompt students to think about what grabbed their attention, what worked, and, in the rare case, what didn’t work.
“He was very interpersonal, interactive, and engaged with the students. It was never simply a lecture conveying content, he always framed it in a way that was about active learning,” said Carey.
Linda White-Ryan, Ph.D., assistant dean at GSS and former Fox student, said Fox “helped us stretch, to look at things, and really transformed the way we view things.”
“I’ve had a lot of education, from kindergarten and all through my doctoral work; he’s the best teacher I ever had, by far,” she said. She noted that he tempered his keen intellect by allowing his vulnerabilities to show through, which in turn made him approachable to his students, a rare quality at the doctoral level, she said.
“In master’s programs there’s a lot of nurturing, not so much in the doctoral programs. But he could always bring humor into the interactions he had with students so that we wouldn’t take ourselves so seriously,” she said.
Yet his jovial demeanor remained anchored by academic rigor.
“In social work, you usually get a good researcher, a good clinician, or a good professor, but he was all three,” she said.
Even though the purpose of a doctoral degree was to conduct research, the clinician in Fox understood that the research should not be so hifalutin that it couldn’t be translated into the everyday practice for social workers on the front lines.
“His view was that research would inform social workers practice in a practical way and that it wasn’t just ‘ivory tower,’” White-Ryan said. “He’d say, ‘Let’s keep it real and let’s make it meaningful for the practitioners so they can use what we’re doing in a way that serves the communities that we’re trying to reach out to.”
Fox’s multifaceted interest within his professional discipline was matched by varied interests off-campus. Carey, who is also a practicing artist, said that Fox was an artist in his own right. The two took life drawing classes together in the Hamptons near their homes on Long Island’s North Fork. He also dropped by her studio to attend her workshops on watercolor and acrylic.
“He loved the abstract, design, and figurative. He was very multidimensional and had creativity in every part of his life. He and his wife Jeri spent the summer in Mattituck and they shared the cooking duties. They loved food and wine and those little martinis,” Carey said.
His creative outlets provided fodder for yet another book, this time co-authored with Carey and artist Jacqueline Penny, titled The Artful Journal: A Spiritual Quest (Watson Guptill, 2002).
Fox is survived by his wife, Jeri (Geraldine); his children Tracy Galluppi and Thomas Fox; and his four grandchildren. Carey said his family was always his center, particularly his grandchildren—and the love was returned in kind.
“When pop-pop came in the place would light up; they loved pop-pop.”