For many years, Dr. Dan Knox and his wife, Sheila, have been an important part of the educational system in Jackson County.
He taught music at Northeast Alabama Community College and she worked as a licensed speech pathologist.
Both recently retired and are using their time and tremendous talent to reach out and help others as far away as Mexico working with Mission to the World (M.T.W.).
Since 1982, Dan was the head of NACC’s music department, cultivating the talent and skills of local students and community musicians. He retired in August.
Surprisingly, he was not always interested in music.
“My mother always thought music was important,” he said. “I took piano lessons but because it was a solo thing, I didn’t enjoy it. Going into the seventh grade, many of my friends got into the band so it was a social thing for me. As I progressed and went to college at Troy University, I was attracted to their band, and after a year, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Knox explained that at most colleges music departments do not have high enrollment numbers because it is a difficult career choice unless you plan to teach.
“We began to expand the music department at NACC over the years,” he said, “and when Dr. David Campbell became president of the college, he wanted more community involvement. So we combined the students and community musicians for the Jazz band.”
Knox plays any single reed instrument including Clarinet, Saxophone, Flute and Piccolo.
“I bang around on some other things, but I wouldn’t hire me,” he joked.
Sheila began her career in Jackson County when she moved here in 1978 after receiving her Master’s Degree in speech pathology from Auburn University.
“I tell people God gave this career to me,” she said. “I knew from the tenth grade that I would do this.
“I was taking speech therapy because I wore braces on my teeth, and one day they told me to go down and observe a classroom.
“The speech therapist invited me in,” she continued, “and one little girl had a total cleft palate and she was about nine years old. They had me follow her around and see what all she could do. I thought, I’ve got to do this because it was a helping profession.” When it was time to go to college, she got an advisor at Auburn and obtained her undergraduate degree at Snead State Community College in Boaz.
The couple first met at a church function in 1983.
“When I first moved here,” Sheila said, “I was involved at First Baptist Church in Scottsboro and they had a very large singles group that met on Saturday nights. I had been to a teacher talent show and was dressed as a clown, full white face and all, so I wasn’t going to go in.”
Later on, one of the singles had a birthday party at her home and I met Dan that night. It took him a year and a half to ask me out,” she said with a smile.
“I had a philosophy about dating,” he said. “I just wanted to know a person before I would go out with them.”
Sheila recalls their first date with fondness.
“It was in 1984 and I told him I would teach him how to snow ski,” she said. “He had packed a picnic lunch and we went to Cloudmont Ski Resort during the day.
“He was and excellent student and that was one other thing I liked about him,” she said. “He really took to it quickly. There was real snow on the ground and it was beautiful.
“We went back and skied some more and
on the way back, he reached over and held my hand. That was the sweetest thing.”
He began to teach her to play the flute and his gentle kindness won her over.
“He treated me like I was a little porcelain piece,” she said, “and I had been praying and asking God to direct me. It’s amazing how He takes care of those things when you trust Him.”
The couple married within four months of their first date.
“My parents did the same thing,” Dan said. “They met in August and married in November.”
Today, they have two daughters who are carrying on the legacy of the Knox’s deep roots in education.
“We are very proud of them,” Sheila said. “Danielle, is getting her degree in curriculum instruction and getting her masters at Alabama. Leslie is already a business marketing major from Alabama. She is taking the experience she had with her past job and using it in the field of Internet technician in combination with marketing.”
They also have one son-in-law, Danielle’s husband, Cortney.
“He is just terrific,” Sheila said. “His sweet parents are from the Henagar area.
He and Danielle live in Huntsville and he is doing children’s ministry.”
Danielle teaches English and Social Studies to gifted sixth-grade students.
The Knox’s now attend Riverside Community Church.
“Our pastor is Steve Barber,” Sheila said. “Dan and I spent three weeks this summer doing the Maranatha music institute in Mexico.
“We worked with Mission to the World M.T.W. with Ellen Burnett,” she said. “We love working with youth and there is an amazing opportunity for Costa Rica. You go down and see the areas where they need experience and you pray about it and see where God leads.”
He taught upper level theories and private instruments and also conducted a choir and small orchestra.
“I taught basic piano and it was great fun,” Sheila said. “ The biggest barrier was the language barrier, but we had some awesome translators. You develop relationships and you learn about the people. We were invited into some homes and we love the culture. We’d love to be able to connect with the Latin American population here.”
Since she retired in June, Sheila has been busy working with others in the field of her passion – Autism.
“I mentor graduate students from Alabama A&M University,” she said. “I am trying to set up a connect group in Jackson county that will provide education opportunities, ongoing information and updates. The goal is to set up a junior and senior board so we can be fundraising and provide some respite care, but also some educational opportunities for parents of children with Autism.
“I’m working with the Alabama Autism Society,” she said. “We have a website called Jackson County A.S.D. Connections.”
After all these years, she said her husband still treats her with the same love and respect he always has.
“He supports me with all of this,” she said. “He knows I’m pretty driven in this area.”