Ms. Fox, who was Hun’s head librarian from 1985 to 2015, and archivist until 2018, passed away on April 9th after a long battle with cancer. Before her passing, she was presented with a plaque bearing the new name of the collection, The Mary Ann W. Fox Archives of the Hun School of Princeton.
“No one has done more to preserve and tell the 104-year-old Hun story than Mary Ann W. Fox,” said Headmaster Jonathan Brougham. “She long ago rescued the damp remnants of neglected old records from the Russell Hall basement, and watched over them with loving care. She tamed volumes of material into a coherent and usable repository of documents, artifacts, and lore. Virtually all we know about our origins and the remarkable people who built our School comes from Mary Ann's devoted work.”
“I am thrilled that Hun is recognizing its history in this way, and I hope this preservation of its rich heritage continues forever,” Ms. Fox said in an interview from her East Brunswick home on March 28th.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, Ms. Fox attended the University of Georgia, where she earned a degree in sociology. She settled in New Jersey in 1967 when her former husband accepted a job at Bell Laboratories. She went on to earn a master’s degree in library science from Rutgers University in 1983.
When Ms. Fox arrived at Hun in 1985, she immediately set about revolutionizing the library. She started digitizing the card catalog, well before other independent school libraries did so. It was a massive undertaking that involved hiring several librarians and marshaling an army of students and parent volunteers to put barcodes on the back of thousands of books. Ms. Fox’s title, director of curricular integration and technology services, reflected the evolving nature of libraries at the end of the 20th century.
Current Library Associate Deborah Kvarta, who began working with Ms. Fox in 1994, said her colleague was known around the state for her efforts. Hun became the first independent school in New Jersey to digitize its collection.
“I visited a public library when I first started working here,” said Ms. Kvarta, “and when the librarian heard I worked at Hun, she said ‘Mary Ann Fox has made that the best school library in the state.’ She was really renowned in the library world.”
In 2004, Ms. Fox turned her considerable organizational prowess and love of history to rescuing Hun’s archives. She and alumnus U.S. Air Force Major (retired) Eugene Freda ’48 undertook the task, sorting and cataloging books, papers, pictures, clothing, and other artifacts. Ms. Fox then began the process of digitizing it, creating an online archive that includes Edgerstounian
yearbooks, The Mall
newspapers, Hun Today
Middle School yearbooks, and scores of other publications.
“She was a fantastic person, and the archives were her heart’s desire,” said Mr. Freda. “She devoted her life to it, and she did it so well because of her passion for it. What we created over fifteen years was quite something, it was nice to be a part of it.”
Middle School history and geography teacher Joan Nuse, who worked extensively with Ms. Fox, said she demonstrated endless energy in the process of providing students and teachers with the research skills and bright ideas that helped them learn.
“Mary Ann brought so much enthusiasm and creativity to the library, and she always wanted to help people,” said Mrs. Nuse. “You went to her with an idea, and before you knew it, she’d come up with a bunch of really creative, fun things to do in the classroom.”
One example, said Mrs. Nuse, was the Civil War Middle School unit Ms. Fox helped her design. Ms. Fox found books of original Civil War letters for students to read, and suggested student dress up as famous Civil War generals to present their stories.
“I think she somehow found more than twenty-four hours in each day, to accomplish everything she did,” said Mrs. Nuse. “I’d say I wanted to learn about something, and next thing you know, she’d give me ten books on the topic. She was amazing.”
“Mary Ann was such an incredible person,” said retired Upper School Head Bill McQuade. “She never once put her needs before the needs of Hun. Without her dedication to preserving Hun's history, future generations would not know how far Hun has come.”
Ms. Kvarta said there could be no more fitting tribute to Ms. Fox than naming the archives after her.
“The honor is so well deserved,” said Ms. Kvarta of Ms. Fox, who is survived by her children Bill and Kate and several grandchildren. “Hun was really the focus of her life, and this is a perfect tribute, because I know Hun is where her heart was.”