Louise Cox: Lifelong impact on SUSCC students

Published 10:30 am Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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Most teachers touch a few students’ lives for a lifetime. Louise Cox has had the distinct privilege of making a lasting impact on her students and all others who pass through the halls of Southern Union State Community College.

Cox, a 91-year-old, retired teacher from LaFayette, was honored during a Southern Union Foundation event last month. 

“She has been a true friend to the college over the years. She embodies the values and the character of Southern Union,” said Communications Director Shondae Brown. “The committee felt that it was very fitting that she’d been honored with this award.”

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“I was shocked,” Cox said.

Cox spent 20 years as an educator at Southern Union State Community College in Valley. Her family was instrumental in the success of the college during its beginnings as a rural private Christian college. She always knew that she would attend Southern Union. 

“I knew when I was little that I wanted to be a teacher,” Cox said. 

However, when she was 16 years old, Cox left school to get married. At 29, she returned to begin her studies at SUSCC in 1961. After that, Cox received her B.S. degree in education from Auburn University. 

Cox said it was hard being a nontraditional student. She used the experience to encourage her own students in the future.

She went on to earn her master’s degree at AU, all while raising five children. While studying for her master’s, she taught at LaFayette High School from 1968 to 1973. 

“Those years at Lafayette High were some of the most wonderful years of my life. My students, they still look after me all these years,” Cox said. “I love them dearly.”

Cox taught English and Speech at the SUSCC. She also made many cultural contributions to the college. As a child, Cox wrote plays for herself and her cousins to perform for the family. It was Cox who established the drama department at the college.

“My years at Southern Union were very productive,” Cox said. 

Every year, she took her students on international trips to visit places like London, Paris, Rome and Istanbul.
“I carried my students all over the world. We went to Europe every year … We went to all the plays and orchestras and ballets in this area from Birmingham to Mobile to New Orleans to Atlanta,” Cox said. 

“At our little rural college, not a lot of students get exposed to the arts and cultural things, so she helped bring a wealth of information, a wealth of knowledge about the arts, and introduce them to different cultural things,” Brown said. 

In 1983, Cox was the speaker at the Chambers County High School graduation ceremony.

“I walked across that stage — the stage that I didn’t walk across to get my diploma — as the speaker for the graduating class of 83,” Cox said. “It took me all those years to get on that stage, and I thought, ‘Girl, you’ve come a long way.’”

Cox has been an advocate for education and community involvement over the years. In 1980, she was the first woman and the first layperson elected moderator over 33 congregational Christian churches. 

Cox was the oldest participant in the LaFayette High School protest march over the displacement of its high school students in January.

“I loved my children,” Cox said. “They were just like my children.”

She is a proud member of the Grandmothers For Peace, a group against nuclear weapons. Cox visited the Soviet Union for three weeks during the Cold War to speak to students about peace. 

In the U.S., she also protested unsafe labor conditions and rights for the working class.

“She’s full of vitality. She’s just so eager to continue to support and help Southern Union. Anytime we need her, we call on her and she’s here,” Brown said. 

The college’s foundation held the event as a fundraiser for the student scholarship fund. The event raised approximately $45,000 in scholarship funds.

The event also honored alumni who made an impact on the college community. The other honored alumni were Timothy Henry, David Proctor, Morgan Terrell and Rosario Thomas.