Most people who love Kona Mountain coffee do not know about the man who founded the company. He is the sort who can stay in the background and create a space for others to grow.
John Fox is that man.
His love of Kona coffee spawned a very Hawaiian coffee company with its own farm in the official Kona Coffee district of the Big Island of Hawaii, a company that takes coffee from seed to cup, and brings it to the world as a truly gourmet coffee that often wins awards that proclaim it the best Kona coffee in existence.
But there is more to John Fox.
I just now found out about this, although it happened last August. To say John is a modest man is putting it lightly.
He was called to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado and presented with the year's Air Force Academy Distinguished Service Award.
As the presentation document reads... I'm looking at it now for the first time... "The Academy established the award in February 1999 and presents it each year to an individual or organization whose contributions have had a distinct impact on the well-being of the Academy. The award recognizes those who contribute to the Academy through their generosity and dedication to the institution."
Quite an honor. Even more honoring were the words spoken during the ceremony by Gen. Steve Lorenz (Ret.), president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Air Force Academy Endowment.
"He has always exemplified our core values - integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do - and he has always been an active supporter and an advocate for the Academy and its people."
John's answer to the praise was gracious. He said he was "immensely honored to receive this award. In a sense, I feel like I am accepting on behalf of so many men and women who have served our Air Force and our country so well for so long".
Our John Fox graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1963, and served as a pilot and then a pilot instructor. He later earned an MBA from the University of Denver, became a financial analyst and founded MarkWest Energy Partners, a New York Stock Exchange-listed company serving the oil and gas industry. Fox served as the company's president, CEO and chairman of the board before he retired from MarkWest. He also co-founded and was the chief operating officer of Western Gas Resources.
He is also the chairman of the board for the Fox Family Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit organization.
And yet John finds the time to be a very active chairman of the board at Kona Mountain Coffee, traveling often to Hawaii, which he has come to know and love.
Back to his relationship with the U.S. Air Force Academy...
He became one of several founding directors of the U.S. Air Force Academy Endowment in December 2007. As a director and supporter of the Academy Research and Development Institute, he formed and co-chaired the Academic Excellence Committee for the Academy Visiting Professor Chairs.
He also established the first-ever Director's Challenge, inspiring other board members to increase their donations to the Endowment.
Fox co-chaired the Endowment's Center for Character and Leadership Development Stewardship Committee and worked with U.S. Air Force Academy Endowment and then-CCLD president Dr. Erv Rokke to develop a strategic plan for the center. He also helped create the CCLD's first-ever Senior-Scholar-in-Residence and spoke at CCLD capstone courses for cadets.
Fox has made generous financial contributions to Academy programs and facilities, including principal gifts to the CCLD, the Holladay Athletic Center and the Academy Endowment Founding Director's Fund.
Is it any wonder he has helped to make Kona Mountain coffee such a success?
All of us here appreciate him more than we can say.
But maybe we can sum it all up in these words.
"John... thank you for everything you've done."