Marye Anne Fox

December 9, 1947May 9, 2021

Our jewel, Marye Anne Fox, passed quietly in her sleep on May 9, 2021. The ravages of Parkinson’s disease and associated dementia finally took their toll.

Marye Anne was born on December 9, 1947 in Canton, Ohio to Charles and Lucille Payne. She was inspired by the events surrounding the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in the 1950s to take an interest in science, even as a grade schooler. An excellent student, Marye Anne was elected ‘Teenager of the Year’ by the local Canton newspaper in 1965. She was guided by the principle that one must ‘wish and work’. She was a dedicated and lifelong friend to her younger sister Betsy.

Her life was non-stop. She earned higher degrees in chemistry, including her Ph.D. from Dartmouth College in 1974, when significant barriers existed for women pursuing careers in science. She served as one of the first female scientists to champion the advancement of women in science, and she continued to do so well into her retirement. During her higher education and at the onset of her academic career, she had three sons with her first husband, John Fox.

Her academic pursuits were diverse but rooted in photochemistry and electrochemistry. As her career blossomed, she was greatly aided by several Texas chemistry colleagues, including Michael Dewar, Norman Hackerman, Al Cotton, and Alan Bard. In the mid 1980s she was honored with the Teaching Excellence Award by the UT College of Natural Sciences, became director of the Center for Fast Kinetics Research and was named Rowland Pettit Centennial Professor at UT. In 1990s, Marye Anne became the first UT chemist to hold the M. June and J. Virgil Waggoner Regents Chair in Chemistry (1991) and was elected a member of both the National Academy of Sciences (1994) and the American Philosophical Society (1996). Her list of peer reviewed publications, book chapters, textbooks, visiting professorships, honors, awards and lectureships related to her academic career is almost overwhelming.

Marye Anne’s career arc transitioned from the organic chemistry laboratories and lecture halls to university administration in 1994, when she was appointed Vice President for Research at UT. She left Austin for Raleigh in 1998 to become the chancellor of North Carolina State University, where she oversaw significant growth and eventually had a building named after her – aptly, the Marye Anne Fox Science Teaching Laboratory. She moved to La Jolla, California in 2004 to lead University of California San Diego, where she served as chancellor until her retirement in 2012.

Marye Anne was a public servant and leader beyond academia and worked hard to advance science policy in the United States, irrespective of politics. She was appointed to the National Science Board by then President George H.W. Bush and was awarded the National Medal of Science by former President Barack Obama. She also served on several corporate boards over the span of her career, including service for W.R. Grace & Co, Bridgepoint Education and Red Hat.

Along the way, Marye Anne met her second husband, Jim Whitesell, with whom she shared many adventures over their decades together. With three sons from her first marriage and two from Jim’s, both Marye Anne and Jim have held true to the importance of family. She was deeply invested in the success of her children, and was extremely proud of each of their accomplishments, professionally and especially in family life. Jim was always a stalwart of support for Marye Anne: in her academic and administrative career, as a friend and passionate debater at the dinner table, in sickness and in health.

Marye Anne is survived by her husband Jim; sons Robert (Christine), Michael (Stephanie) and Matthew (Sarah); step-sons Chris (Shannon) and Robert (Jeana Lee); 13 grandchildren; and 2 great-grandchildren. She has helped every life she has touched and all of us will miss her deeply.

Marye Anne, be with God.


  • Memorial Service

    Friday, June 11, 2021


Marye Anne Fox

have a memory or condolence to add?

James Doluisio

June 8, 2021

Thanks for your friendship..... and your aid and support of the University of Texas College of Pharmacy!

Mike Pestorius

June 7, 2021

I was the Director of the University of Texas Applied Research Laboratories(ARL) during the period when Prof. Fox was the VP for Research at UT. ARL was going through a difficult management transition and Prof. Fox helped me greatly by providing steady, clear leadership. There were a few difficult meetings, but I was sure that I could count on her counsel and calm judgement . In the end, the problems were resolved to all stakeholders benefit. This outcome would have been unlikely without Prof. Fox

Reginald Baptiste

June 6, 2021

Dr Fox was my second semester organic chemistry professor. I thought she was one of the best teachers I had at UT Austin. She made organic very understandable and she was always approachable. At the time I had no idea what an accomplished researcher she was, which made her teaching skills and demeanor that more impressive. She was kind enough to offer to write a letter of recommendation for me to medical school. I’m grateful the Lord sent her my way. May she Rest In Peace.

Kenneth Mitchell, MD

June 6, 2021

Dr. Fox taught me organic chemistry in the late 70s when I was a pre-med student at UT. She was a very gifted teacher who made a complex subject come to life and become both understandable and enjoyable .... a subject that was known to weed out a lot of pre-med students. I was fascinated to learn about the distinguished career she went on to lead but I feel sure that being such a gifted teacher with compassion for her students was one of her greatest accomplishments. Job well done. Life well lived. RIP Dr. Fox.
Ken Mitchell, MD, UT Class of 1981
Chief Medical Officer
St. David’s HealthCare

Marion Thurnauer

June 5, 2021

I am so very saddened to learn of Marye Anne's passing. I will never forget first seeing her and hearing her present at a DOE Contractor Meeting , Boulder, Colorado in the 1980's. She stood out as a scientist in the mostly male group. She became a role model for me. Over the years, we met at many conferences. She always had a special smile.

My thoughts are with Marye Anne's family.

John Pojman

May 15, 2021

I managed Professor Fox's VAX Station II when I was a graduate student in the Whitesell lab in 1983. I forget to get her signature for a software update and she was hurrying somewhere when I stopped her. "We have to do better with this in the future, John." I was mortified because she was right. Years later when she visited the University of Southern Mississippi where I was then a professor, I told her the story -- she had no recollection of it but I never forgot. the lesson. Stay on top of your job!
Her brilliance and talent have been an inspiration to me. I was fortunate to have had a chance to interact with her when I was a graduate student.

John A. Pojman, Ph.D
Professor and Chair
Department of Chemistry

Maria Dulay

May 15, 2021

Marye Anne was an amazing PhD advisor. Many of the lessons that she taught me I have carried throughout my scientific career, especially when mentoring students. There are memories so vivid that it seems like only yesterday that I was a graduate student so appreciative of the opportunity to conduct research in Marye Anne's lab. I have many fond memories of my time in Marye Anne's group at UT-Austin. Her mentorship and counsel has undoubtedly shaped me and has had a profound impact on the scientist that I am today.
Marye Anne's legacy burns strong in me and the countless others who have had the privilege to learn from and to work with her.
When Marye Anne spoke of her three sons, she spoke with the love of a mother. My condolences to the Fox and Whitesell family.