Thomas Fox

Grade Level: 
6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
West Michigan
Fox felt compelled to give back to the community that made his jewelry business such a success. His philanthropy has enabled Grand Rapids hospitals to enter a new era of robotic technology. He supported many other nonprofit organizations through financial gifts and volunteering, including the Red Cross and Hospice.


Biographical Highlights

A third-generation jewelry store owner, Tom Fox grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, during the Great Depression. Later in life, Fox felt compelled to give back to the community that made his business such a success. His philanthropy has enabled Grand Rapids hospitals to enter a new era of robotic technology.


Historic Roots

Tom Fox was born in Grand Rapids on August 7, 1927, to Martin and Hilda Fox. Tom was named for his grandfather who owned a jewelry store in London, Ontario. Martin Fox originally worked in his father’s jewelry store but later moved to Grand Rapids and opened his own store in 1917. Martin and Hilda had three children: Tom and his two sisters. The Fox family attended Temple Emanuel. Tom graduated from East Grand Rapids High School in 1946 and attended college in Grand Rapids and New Jersey. While still in high school, Tom worked for his father, cleaning in the store. After college, he joined the business fulltime. In 1955, Tom married Maxine (Mickie) Bowterse, and the couple eventually had three daughters and one son. Fox sold his jewelry business and retired in 1990. In 2001, he opened a new business called Thomas S. Fox Jewelers that focused solely on diamonds.



As philanthropists, the Foxes have given million-dollar gifts to several Grand Rapids institutions that benefit the entire community. They are especially notable for their role as the champions of surgical robotics in Grand Rapids, effectively bringing the technology to all three acute-care hospitals in the area.


Ties to the Philanthropic Sector

Throughout his adult life, Tom Fox supported the March of Dimes, the Red Cross, Hospice of Michigan, the Santa Claus Girls, the Grand Rapids Christian Foundation, Temple Emmanuel, and other local nonprofit organizations both as a volunteer and as a donor. In 1990, the couple established the Tom and Mickie Fox Family Fund, the first donor-advised fund at the Grand Rapids Foundation, now the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

After retiring and selling the jewelry business, Tom and Mickie Fox gave a one-million dollar gift to the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. The experience was so positive for them that the couple made a plan to continue that level of giving. They purchased a da Vinci robot for Spectrum Health's Butterworth Campus in May 2006. The seventh floor of the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center is named the Tom and Mickie Fox Cardiovascular Unit. In 2007, they gave a one-million-dollar gift to Saint Mary's Health Care to purchase a da Vinci robot and equip the Tom and Mickie Fox Family Center for Advanced Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery. Later that same year, the Foxes provided the funds to purchase the da Vinci robot for Metro Health Hospital.


Key Related Ideas

Tom Fox grew up in a Jewish household during the Great Depression. Fox experienced the economic hardship of the time but found success in the jewelry retail business. Fox’s Jewelry became a third-generation business when he joined the firm. Upon selling his business, Fox took his philanthropy to a new level, especially by bringing new medical technology to Grand Rapids hospitals.


Important People Related to the Topic

  • Martin Fox: Tom’s father, Martin, started the jewelry business in Grand Rapids and served as a teacher and role model for Tom.
  • Mickie Fox: Born Maxine Bowterse, Mickie has been Tom’s wife and partner in philanthropy since 1955.


Related Nonprofit Organizations

  • The Grand Rapids Community Foundation: Michigan’s oldest nonprofit organization pools donations in order to invest them and make grants to a variety of charitable organizations.
  • The Santa Claus Girls is a 100% volunteer organization in Grand Rapids that serves as a distribution network for gifts during the holidays.
  • The Temple Emanuel website at gives details about the place of worship Fox has attended and supported his whole life.


Bibliography and Internet Sources

Elliott, Gerald. “Martin M. Fox: the Jewelry Store Man” The Grand Rapids Press, Mar. 17, 1981, p. 13A.

Clipping file and oral history in the SOUL of Philanthropy collection in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library