Jesse H. Cox


IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award (2009)
Distinguished Alumni Service Award (2007)
B.S., 1944


Born on a homestead in Utah, Jesse Cox returned to his family's home state of Indiana when he was four, and his mother died a year later. While his father supported him and his two brothers and a sister by farming and building homes, Jesse worked from the age of six on family farms or businesses. He married his high school sweetheart, Beulah Chanley, in 1939, the same year as he enrolled in Indiana University. He put himself through IU by creating a mimeograph enterprise and a transportation service between Bloomington and Indianapolis.

After earning a business degree from IU in 1942, he started the J.H. Cox Manufacturing Co., which supplied venetian blinds to retailers Sears & Roebuck, L.S. Ayres and William H. Block. Shortly afterward, Jesse and Beulah bought a small bankrupt company and started Aero Blind & Drapery Inc., which grew over several decades to become a thriving Indianapolis firm with 920 employees and annual sales of $30 million. Through other ventures, Jesse H. Cox Inc. and B.J. Realty Inc., the Coxes began farming nearly 1,500 acres in Boone, Hamilton and Putnam counties, and buying and managing commercial real estate rental property.

Their many successful business ventures allowed the Coxes to financially support both their community and Indiana University. In 1999, Cox and his late wife, Beulah, donated 126 acres and three homes to the Hamilton County Parks Department to create the Coxhall Gardens in Carmel, Ind. Early funds donated by the Xoces were used to develop the Arboretum on the site of the old Memorial Stadium at IU Bloomington. Their donated funds were also used to build and maintain the Jesse H. and Beulah Chanley Cox Pavilion in the Arboretum. Both the pavilion and the Arboretum were named for the Coxes in 1997. The couple's generosity also established the Jesse H. and Beulah Chanley Cox Scholars program, which provides scholarships for working students on IU's Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses. The $85 million gift was the largest ever received by IU from individuals, and also the largest individual gift for scholarships.

For his service to the state, Cox was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon in 2002.