From her home on the crest of Santa Barbara’s Riviera, Alice Cox has a commanding view of the city, the sea and the surrounding area. For nearly 50 years she and her husband, Joe, lived in this spectacular spot. He died in August 2002 at the age of 97, and she is making plans to move to Minnesota to be closer to her family and her roots. As she sorted through her possessions and finances, she decided to give something valuable to Westmont. To assist students with financial need, she has established an endowed fund, the Joe and Alice Cox Scholarship.
From their vantage point, Joe and Alice watched Westmont over the years, and they liked what they saw. Long-time members of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, they believed strongly in the value of Christian education. Alice is a woman of deep faith.
Then three of their relatives enrolled at Westmont, and they became better acquainted with the college. The experiences of Jennifer Johnson Davis ’88, Brent Johnson ’93 and Darin Johnson ’01 confirmed the Coxes’ good opinion of Westmont and its commitment to the Christian faith.
“The Lord has been very good to us,” Alice says. “I have felt his guidance in my decisions.”
“We are deeply grateful for the Cox Scholarship and the legacy Alice has left for Westmont,” says President Stan D. Gaede. “This generous gift will help many students get a quality education rooted in Christ.”
Joe grew up in Oklahoma and Colorado, where his parents farmed, but he was interested in mechanical things. At a young age, he learned to weld, repair motors and work in a variety of construction trades.
With his brother, Joe moved to Portland, Ore., and got a job in the logging industry. He liked the physically demanding work of felling trees, but found the gas-powered saw troublesome. Its cutting chain required constant filing and maintenance. Joe began to search for a solution to this problem.
The answer came unexpectedly when he caught sight of a timber-beetle larva chewing its way through solid wood. Joe decided to replicate the insect’s alternating, C-shaped jaws to create a new chain.
Working at home in his basement, Joe sold the first Cox Chipper Chain in 1947. According to the the Web site of the Oregon Saw Chain Manufacturing Corp., “The basic design of Joe’s original chain is still widely used today and represents one of the biggest influences in the history of timber harvesting.”
Joe established Oregon Saw Chain in 1947 with four employees who worked out of his basement. But the company soon outgrew his home and eventually expanded to Canada and other foreign countries. By 1953, when Joe sold the company to one of his employees, sales had grown to more than $1 million.
His next venture was Precision Castpart Corp., which began with saw chain file holders and expanded to produce highly technical metal products. Its exotic casting capabilities contributed to the success of the General Electric turbine engines used in airplanes.
Joe and Alice got married in 1949 and settled in Santa Barbara in 1957. Joe then founded the Iron Hat Mine Co. and San Roque Oil and Exploration Co. and spent 30 years developing a tool to locate oil, gas and minerals, but he never found a buyer for this invention.
Through their scholarship, the Coxes will help gifted students get a Christian education. Perhaps one of these young men or women will carry on Joe’s legacy of innovation.