Life of Leadership: ODK Society Honors Anthony Foxx ’93 with Top Award

Anthony Foxx ’93 receiving the national Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Society’s Laurel Crowned Circle Award

Anthony Foxx ’93 accepted the national Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Society’s Laurel Crowned Circle Award, the highest individual honor awarded by the organization.

In a world facing “a difficult moment for leadership,” Anthony Foxx ’93, a former Charlotte mayor and U.S. Transportation Secretary who has worked to improve communities locally and nationally, has received a top award for just that.

Foxx returned to a Davidson College audience last week to accept the national Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Society’s highest individual honor. ODK, an academic honor society, issues the Laurel Crowned Circle Award to recognize prominent leaders for integrity, scholarship, character, service and fellowship.

Past recipients include former cabinet members, such as U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, as well as top business, education, and media luminaries, including the late National Public Radio and television journalist Cokie Roberts.

Davidson College President Doug Hicks ’90 with Anthony Foxx ’93 during his acceptance of the national Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) award

At the award ceremony held at Davidson College: Davidson College President Doug Hicks ’90, Anthony Foxx ’93, President and CEO of ODK Jennifer Waller, Davidson College Vice President of ODK Laila Robinson '24, ODK Board Chair Peter Christiaans, Director of Chidsey Program for Leadership Development and Davidson College ODK Circle Coordinator Nadia Campbell, and Assistant Dean of Students/Director of Residence Life and Davidson College ODK Advisor Walter Snipes.

Leadership has been a constant theme in Foxx’s life. He was the first Black president of Davidson’s Student Government Association, Charlotte’s youngest mayor and served as President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Transportation. 

That leadership played prominently during the past week. 

The ODK award came a day after Harvard’s Kennedy School announced his new post as co-director of its Center for Public Leadership. Both honors drew applause from those gathered for the award ceremony, including his mother, Laura.

With wars raging across the world and partisan political polarization dividing Americans, the need for leaders who can bring people together to solve problems is great, Foxx says. That includes increasing efforts to lift communities out of poverty, causes he championed as a mayor and national leader.

“The world seems upside down … the call for leadership is very much alive,” Foxx said. “I have seen what it’s like and experienced what it’s like to not have access to all of the great things in the world.”

Foxx grew up in a working-class west Charlotte neighborhood and saw many people struggling to afford basic needs. He credits his mother for pushing him to become a leader, “and if I did find myself in a position of leadership, to make sure I did everything I could to make sure those great things were available to everybody.”

Anthony Foxx ’93 accepting the national Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) Society’s Laurel Crowned Circle Award

Foxx spoke to a Davidson College audience that included his mother, Laura.

Increasing Access, Opportunity

Matthew Clifford ’01 nominated Foxx for the award, citing his career and accomplishments in public service. That included making transportation and infrastructure investments, such as extending Charlotte’s light rail system and expanding Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

In bipartisanship rarely seen today, the U.S. Senate in 2017 confirmed his cabinet nomination with a 100-0 vote.

The ODK nomination hails Foxx for working toward a more equitable world. Foxx chaired Davidson College’s Commission on Race and Slavery. As transportation secretary, he led efforts to improve transportation in underserved areas, “helping to bridge gaps in mobility and economic opportunity.”

Foxx currently chairs the U.S. Transportation Department’s Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity (ACTE.)

“Throughout his life, Secretary Foxx has leveraged his leadership roles to create opportunities for communities across the nation,” Clifford wrote. “The theme of transportation runs through his public life, and he has extended and created pathways for growth. He exemplifies the qualities of collaboration and service in his work.”

Investing in the Next Generation

Davidson College President Doug Hicks ’90, who’s known Foxx since their undergraduate days, says he has consistently demonstrated what true leadership is.

“Davidson College’s mission is to cultivate lives of leadership and service, and Anthony demonstrates each day what that looks like,” Hicks said. “He seeks to raise up succeeding generations rather than elevate his own interests, and he shows that leadership often means pursuing an aspiration regardless of the obstacles thrust in front of you.” 

At the ODK ceremony, Foxx talked about his early days in Washington and meeting with former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell, a four-star general, offered the new cabinet member leadership advice.

Foxx says those lessons from Powell, a friend and mentor who died in 2021, have stuck with him.

“One of the most important duties of any leader is to share what they know,” Foxx recalled Powell advising him. “The most important work I can do today is to impart to another generation some of the things I have learned.”

At a time when divides can seem insurmountable, Foxx said, it’s important to work together to invest in present and future generations.

“We have one planet, and we have to share it,” he said. “I am the product of a lot of people’s investment in me. Our investments in them will pay off.”

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