Growing up in Spanish Fork, Utah, Zack Fox enjoyed spending most of his time on the football field. With some hard work and talent on the field, his love for the game eventually led him to play collegiate football at Dixie State (now Utah Tech University), where he excelled as a wide receiver for four years. Although Fox’s football playing days are mostly behind him now, the lessons he learned on the field—especially the importance to always “show up”—apply in his new role as an assistant professor of accounting in the BYU Marriott School of Business.
When not on the field at Dixie State, Fox studied accounting. After graduating, Fox worked at the Utah State Tax Commission for two years. “During that time, I discovered I wanted to get a PhD. I really liked the mentorship aspect of the career,” Fox explains. “Playing football taught me that—if I earned a PhD—I could coach students in the classroom as I was coached on the field. I could be a mentor for students who wanted to learn.”
While working, he began applying to PhD programs. But, during his last interview at the University of Alabama, he spoke with Peter Johnson who had previously taught accounting at BYU Marriott. Surprisingly, Johnson suggested that Fox first earn a master’s degree in accounting at BYU Marriott. “I knew BYU Marriott had a great accounting program, but I didn’t consider applying until he encouraged me to try,” explains Fox.
For Fox, resetting his course for BYU Marriott would not only impact his immediate course of education but also future career decisions. “I had way more opportunities and doors open to me, in terms of PhD programs, because I came here first. I was able to be selective between a number of really good schools,” says Fox.
He completed the Master of Accountancy program at BYU Marriott and then began his PhD at the University of Oregon. “The Lord was in the details telling me where I needed to go,” explains Fox. In Oregon he worked with compassionate mentors of diverse faiths and backgrounds who guided him in his studies. “There are really amazing people in this world that are blessed by our Heavenly Father that aren’t necessarily members of the Church,” Fox says.
After finishing his PhD and going through a trying divorce, Fox moved his family to College Station, Texas, to work at Texas A&M University. “I was a single dad in Texas, and that was tough,” says Fox. Although his new life was challenging, Fox enjoyed his short time in College Station because he felt supported by the campus community. On occasion, friends and neighbors watched over Fox’s three children when he was at work.
Fox stayed at Texas A&M until he was offered the opportunity to work for the School of Accountancy, and he wouldn’t have left Texas for any other reason.
Now at BYU Marriott, Fox appreciates living near loved ones who support him and his children. He recently remarried and enjoys camping with his wife and family. “I just wouldn't have been able to get that side of my life figured out had I not come back to BYU,” Fox says.
Throughout his life, Fox has realized that always showing up—confronting his challenges—has helped him evaluate his priorities. “Honestly, my family is my main priority, and my challenges have taught me to prioritize my family first, and my career can come second,” Fox says.
As Fox continues to navigate through challenges, work with colleagues, and spend time with family, he notes that he can achieve happiness by always showing up. “When adversity hits, I’ll always show up. Hopefully I can inspire my students to do the same.”
Writer: Jake Holt