When Mel Fox stepped away from politics last year, she’d experienced enough of the deep political divides and polarization that defines modern US government.
As Fox herself admitted, however, public service is woven into her DNA. Public service, in fact, is part of her family legacy.
During a brief phone interview Tuesday afternoon, she told the Daily News, “I am Ovid Butler’s niece, five generations removed. My Great-Great-Great grandmother, Mary, was Ovid’s sister.”
Ovid Butler, of course, was the founder of Indiana’s Butler University. When Fox finally moved out of the glaring, incendiary light of modern politics, she knew she couldn’t go long without stepping into some public service role.
“Servanthood is part of the ‘Butler Way,’” she said, referring to a core system of beliefs first laid down by legendary Butler Basketball Head Coach Tony Hinkle decades ago.
Those principals, according to Fox, are: Humility; passion; unity; servanthood, and thankfulness.
The Butler Way, she added, was in actuality, first practiced by Ovid Butler and has been part of Butler University’s lifeblood since its founding in 1855.
Fox’s main outlet to practice the Butler Way has come in the form of service to the Decatur County Emergency Management Agency (EMA).
Considering the weather catastrophes plaguing the state in recent years, for Fox, service to the EMA is critical to Decatur County’s future — indeed, to Indiana’s future. When it comes to weather, Fox agreed, Decatur County has been waiting for “the other shoe to drop,” over the last few years, making it vital to be prepared when the next emergency strikes.
“It’s amazing to me,” she said, “how, since the May 2011 tornado, our local EMA has come together and become a shining example for the region and the state.”
For a reminder of why she first entered the public-service arena, though, Fox turns back to her lineage. The Butler Way, she said, offers an important reminder that modern, polarized politics don’t reflect the true nature of or the fundamental ideals one should adhere to as he or she enters public service.
On February 7, Fox spoke at the Annual Butler University Founder’s Day, which celebrates both Butler University’s founding and Ovid Butler’s birthday; 2013 marked 212 years since Ovid Butler’s birth.
“If you look back on Ovid Butler’s life,” Fox said, “you quickly see that he was ahead of his time. He was a big believer that we, as human beings, should respect one another regardless of race, sex, color, religion, political affiliation and the multiple other things we find to discriminate against each other.”
“Butler University,” she added, “was only the second school in the nation to allow women and people of color to have the exact same education as white men.”
Fox is proud, too, that both Ovid Butler and the university named in his honor can lay claim to Greensburg roots.
Ovid Butler, she said, opened his first law practice in Greensburg.
“It was a miserable failure,” she explained. “In fact, he fell flat on his face, but he kept moving forward and found great success a little later practicing law in Shelbyville (he was Shelbyville’s first lawyer) and Indianapolis with Calvin Fletcher (Indiana’s first lawyer and the founder of the Fletcher Bank).”
The 1847 vote establishing and laying the foundation for Ovid Butler’s University occurred right here in Greensburg, Fox said, at the Disciples of Christ Christian Church.
It took another six years for Ovid Butler to raise $75,000 to open his school, but, in 1855, the Northwestern Christian University finally accepted its first student.
“They changed the name to Butler University in 1877,” Fox explained. “And Ovid hated it. He strongly protested the name change, because he was a gentleman with the utmost humility, which is a value of The Butler Way.”
“The Butler Way,” she concluded, “should be the way of the world.”
Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.