It started out as an earnest promise: if his daughter would stay single, stay in school and earn a college degree, her father would go back to college himself.
It was not a promise made lightly, however.
"I had trouble just helping her with her homework. I thought I was too old to go back to college, or not smart enough," said Frank Fox of Ada. "I used whatever excuse I could think of."
D'Lisa Fox (left) and her father, Frank Fox, try on their caps and gowns before Saturday's commencement ceremony for spring and summer graduates at East Central University. Their graduation fulfills a promise he made to her -- if she would go to college and complete her degree, he would go back to college himself. Both also worked full time but managed to graduate together.
His daughter, D'Lisa Fox, took him up on that promise, though, and on Saturday [MAY 9] they will walk across the stage together during the 2 p.m. commencement ceremony in East Central University's Kerr Activities Center.
When D'Lisa Fox graduated from Roff High School, "I told her I would go back to college and I would try," her father remembered. "When she was in high school I had told her I wished I had gone back and completed my (college) degree."
What followed was a bumpy few years with each juggling full-time class schedules at ECU with full-time jobs at the Ada Police Department. He was an Ada police officer most of that time and she still is a dispatcher for the police department.
"I worked a lot of shift work," he said. "I would work from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., go to school from 8 a.m. to 1 or 2 p.m., go home and sleep and go back to work. Or work from 3:30 to 11:30 at night and go to class in the morning. Whatever it took to get it done."
Meanwhile, D'Lisa Fox joked with their co-workers that she had to go help her dad with his homework.
"It felt awkward at first that my dad was going back to school," she said. "Now, I'm so proud of him. He's so brave. He's been my rock. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here. There were times when I wanted to quit, when it really got hard, and just work. But he pushed me, and I'm so glad he did."
Their quest also became a competition at times, but it was all in fun, she said.
"I was going to be the first college graduate (in her immediate family), but now we're graduating together. But I'll be the first one across the stage," she said with a laugh.
Frank Fox is majoring in criminal justice with a minor in Native American studies. He was just named ECU's Criminal Justice Student of the Year with a grade point average of 3.968.
"He's showing me up," D'Lisa Fox said.
"You can keep the awards," her father said. "The key is that we're walking across the stage at the same time. It was a lot of hard work, but we managed to do it. It's pretty cool for our whole family."
They have had only one class together, astronomy. Whoever finished one of the basic classes first was able to help the other later on. They will take one class together this summer before officially finishing degree requirements in July.
D'Lisa Fox is majoring in mass communications (electronic/print media) and plans to move to Dallas in several months to work in film and video production. She is engaged to a fellow police dispatcher, Dale Cross, who plans to become a firefighter.
Frank Fox left his police department job last year to concentrate on finishing his degree this year and now works for the Chickasaw Nation Security Division. He is considering new options once he has his degree, maybe working for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
"I'm seriously considering going to law school," he said. "I have over 20 years in law enforcement. I might either teach or go to law school.
"I wouldn't have considered that four years ago," he added. "When I saw I was able to graduate and my grade point average was high enough, I thought, 'Maybe I can do this.'"
Frank Fox had "maybe one semester" of college when he started at ECU.
"I honestly tried to think of every excuse I could think of to not go back to school. There is no excuse," he said, "to justify not getting a college degree. Education in today's world is the key. You can't go anywhere without an education."
Working in the background to see that her husband and daughter made it through ECU has been Micki Fox who works for Pre-Paid Legal Services Inc.
"If it hadn't been for ECU and the faculty and their help," Frank Fox said, "I don't think I'd have been able to do this. ECU is such a great inspiration. This type of university has more one-on-one attention than larger universities. The faculty is so helpful and generous. They helped me keep my interest up. They actually cared about me and my goals. They helped us graduate together."
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