Auburn icon Dean James Foy dies at 93

James Edgar Foy, one of the most widely known and beloved figures at Auburn University for more than half a century, died Friday evening in Auburn. He was 93.

Visitation will be held Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Jeffcoat-Trant Funeral Home and from 10 to 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at Auburn United Methodist Church’s Founders Chapel. Funeral services will be held Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 11 a.m at Auburn United Methodist Church. Burial will follow in Fairview Cemetery in Eufaula at 3 p.m.

As Auburn’s dean of student affairs for a quarter century and a volunteer on campus for 30 more years, Foy became one of the most iconic Auburn figures of the last half of the 20th century.

“It’s impossible to fully capture the breadth of Dean Foy’s impact on Auburn,” said Auburn President Jay Gogue. “He will be missed, and he will be remembered by the personal connection he made with students and those who knew him. The thoughts and prayers of the Auburn family are with his family and many loved ones.”

The Eufaula native, who had been a decorated Navy fighter pilot during World War II, joined Auburn’s Office of Student Affairs in 1950, and was soon promoted to director and dean, a post he held until retiring in 1978. He then served two years as executive secretary to Gov. Fob James before returning to the community.

As one of the longest serving and most accessible senior administrators of his era at Auburn or nationally, Foy was widely credited with greatly expanding the support services and organizations available to Auburn students and helping guide the campus seamlessly through transitions associated with racial integration, the Vietnam War, the women’s equality movement and the end of the university’s “in loco parentis” role as substitute parent to its students.

While his counterparts at other universities were coping with student unrest during the 1960s and ‘70s, Foy was guiding student leaders toward civic activities and patriotic displays of citizenship, such as setting several world records for blood donations. Setting an example for students during the blood drives, the Auburn dean eventually contributed more than seven gallons of blood and was twice recipient of the American Red Cross Award of Honor.

In their book “Auburn: A Pictorial History of the Loveliest Village,” retired journalism professors Jack Simms and Mickey Logue describe Foy, along with longtime Dean of Women Catherine Cater, as “of necessity” fitting the definition of The Auburn Spirit. Although Foy held two degrees from the University of Alabama and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University, students and alumni dubbed him “War Eagle Foy” because of his unabashed love for all things Auburn and his easy rapport with all elements of the campus community.

Foy graduated from Tuscaloosa High School in 1935 and the University of Alabama in 1939. He remained at the UA campus for two years as assistant to the dean of men, and joined the Navy on Dec. 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. As a pilot and recipient of the Navy Air Medal, he flew numerous combat missions in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.

After the war, Foy and his wife Emmalu returned to Tuscaloosa, where he entered the insurance business with family members for two years before rejoining the student affairs office at the University of Alabama while pursuing a master’s degree from that institution.

He accepted a job offer from Auburn in 1950 and moved to Auburn with Emmalu and young daughters Mary Lou and Susan. The next year, the director of student affairs left, and Foy was named acting director. The acting title was removed in 1952, and the position was upgraded to a deanship in 1960.

With his ties to both institutions, Foy brought together student leaders from both campuses to foster better relations between the two schools. In recognition of those efforts, Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honoraries at Alabama and Auburn in 1973 named their joint good-sportsmanship trophy in his honor.

On the national level, Foy served as executive secretary of Phi Eta Sigma national freshman honor society from 1963-92, and he was named dean of the year in 1975 by the National Association of Personnel Administrators.

Locally, he served as president of the Parent Teachers Association in both Auburn and Lee County. He was named citizen of the year by the local branch of the Boy Scouts in 1992 and by Rotary in 1994.

Upon Foy’s retirement from Auburn, the University Board of Trustees named the then-student union, now James E. Foy Hall, in his honor. The building, completed in 1953, was the nerve center of student activities during his tenure and now houses administrative support services for the university.

Although he officially retired near the end of the 1970s, Foy remained active into the 21st century on behalf of various student and local organizations, and he responded regularly to requests by university presidents and campus and community organizations for leadership and assistance in activities ranging from fund-raising campaigns to alumni rallies and academic and athletic events.

Mike Clardy, (334) 844-9999, (