From the very beginning, Bill Cox and I just hit it off.
I often teased Bill that we were both fortunate to have married up, by finding two strong Alabama women who had a passion and commitment for education and civil rights.
I still mourn the loss of my friend, and business partner of more than 40 years. His death comes three years after the loss of my beloved wife, Joan Morgan Matthews. Joan and Bill’s wife, Lee, were our most ardent supporters when we defied the naysayers and decided to launch Black Issues In Higher Education.
It was their endless support that motivated us to keep on keeping on.
Truth be told, we had no guarantee that Black Issues — which we renamed Diverse in 2005 — would take off. Launching a national publication is akin to starting up a new restaurant. The long-term probability for survival is very slim. Although Joan was a professional journalist, neither Bill nor I had a background in media and journalism and no experience in the publishing world. Still, in 1983, with the unprecedented backlash that African Americans and other minorities were experiencing at Predominantly White Institutions, the heightened questions about the need to perpetuate HBCU’s, and the growing public policy debates around issues like affirmative action, there was a dearth in the coverage of Blacks in higher education, and we knew our reporting had the potential to fill that void.
One day I said to Bill, “This is just ridiculous. Higher education professionals need better information.” It was that simple. He agreed, and thus, Black Issues In Higher Education was born.
The journey was not easy.
It took us six months to get the first issue (March 1984) out. We worked from the unfinished basement of Bill’s house. I was on the faculty at George Mason University and Bill was in charge of counselor educational programs at the Department of the Air Force at the Pentagon. We spent our weekends and evenings working on the publication. Looking back, I often chuckle at the thought of how we were so green. We didn’t know the difference between a typesetter and a typewriter, and there is no way we could have envisioned that the publication would morph into what it is today.
We shared so many experiences across the years. And while we had different leadership styles and didn’t always agree, we deeply respected each other.
As I reflect on Bill’s life and legacy, one of the things that will remain with me is his deep and abiding love for education. Given his modest upbringing in rural Alabama, Bill embraced that passion wholeheartedly and managed to get himself through college and graduate school before launching his successful career.
In recent years, we both took a step back from the company and allowed our children to innovate and modernize the publication. Along the way, we were truly blessed to hire first-rate writers and editors who believed in what we were trying to do and who worked very hard to uphold excellence in writing, research, and journalistic practices. Now, we have so many proud alums who cut their teeth in higher education reporting with us.
Bill was a creative and thoughtful business partner and friend. What better way to celebrate his life and legacy than to ensure that Diverse continues to report and write the stories that truly matter!
Frank L. Matthews is the co-founder of Cox, Matthews, & Associates, the publisher of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education.