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Jean Emily Fairfax

1920 - 2019 Obituary Condolences
Jean Emily Fairfax Obituary
Jean Emily Fairfax

Phoenix - Jean Emily Fairfax, 98, passed away with beauty and grace on February 12, 2019 in Phoenix, AZ. Jean was born on October 20, 1920 in Cleveland, Ohio, the second of three children to Inez Elizabeth (Wood) Fairfax and Dan Robert Fairfax. Her parents, her beloved siblings Betty and Dan, Jr., predeceased her. Jean dedicated her entire life to advocating for equal opportunity for all. Wherever she has lived, she championed education to elevate people, and she was a key motivator of meaningful change. The daughter of two college graduates, Jean excelled in higher education, graduating in 1940, with Honors in Liberal Arts from the University of Michigan and being inducted into the honorary fraternity Phi Beta Kappa. She went on to earn a Master's degree in World Religions from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Jean began her career as Dean of Women at Kentucky State College and later served in the same post at Tuskegee Institute. She committed much of her time and talents to the American Friends Service Committee working as a direct relief worker in Austria following World War II, a director of college programs and as an administrator of Southern Civil Rights programs. She was a leader among citizens who rallied behind the cause of free and reduced lunch programs and through her work with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, she was instrumental in the desegregation of higher education. Jean's sister Betty moved to Arizona in the 1950's and worked as a teacher and counselor with the Phoenix Union High School District for over 50 years. Because of Betty's dedication to education, a high school in Laveen bears her name. When Jean joined Betty in Arizona in the 1980's, they pulled their modest financial resources and actively engaged in a vast array of civic-minded philanthropic pursuits. Through the Arizona Community Foundation, the ASU Foundation, the University of Michigan Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation and the Southern Education Foundation, Jean and Betty supported many educational and scholarship programs, as well as nonprofit organizations addressing social equity, housing, health care, employment, and criminal justice, in addition to a passion for the arts. Jean believed that anyone and everyone can be a philanthropist and that through "giving" ordinary people can bring about transformational change in our world. Jean served on many boards of organizations, including the World Council of Churches, NPR, National Commission on Secondary Schooling for Hispanics, and Women and Foundations Corporate Philanthropy; and she won numerous awards, including the ASU Martin Luther King, Jr. Servant-Leader Award, Hon Kachina-12 Who Care Award, and the Maricopa County YWCA Tribute to Leadership Award. Jean is survived by a host of beloved friends and colleagues. For those wishing to honor the legacy of the Fairfax sisters with a gift in their memory, please make a donation to the Jean E. and Betty H. Fairfax Memorial Fund at the Arizona Community Foundation. For more information, please go to: Visit for condolences.
Published in The Arizona Republic from Feb. 20 to Feb. 24, 2019
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