3TV photographer's spirit lives on in scholarship foundation

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The Valley marked a somber anniversary over the weekend -- six years since the news helicopters from Channel 3 and Channel 15 collided in mid-air while covering a police chase. Both helicopters plummeted to the ground in Steele Indian School Park, killing four well-known newsmen -- 3TV's Jim Cox and Scott Bowerbank and ABC15's Craig Smith and Rick Krolak.

It was July 27, 2007.

In the years since the tragedy, the Cox family has worked hard to keep Jim's legacy and passion for photojournalism alive. More than that, they're hoping his life and work influence and inspire young photojournalists to do the job Jim so loved.

To that end, they founded The James Alan Cox Foundation for Student Photojournalists. The foundation's goal is simple -- to provide financial support to student photographers of high school and college age.

The foundation awarded its first scholarships in 2008, a year after the crash that rocked the city of Phoenix to its core and changed the way news helicopters operate.

With more than a decade of experience at 3TV, Jim knew his job inside and out. To say he was good at it is an understatement.

"Jim Cox was a brilliant shooter, a stand-up guy and a damn good friend," 3TV's Mike Watkiss said when the foundation was launched.

That's how the Cox family wants Jim remembered, and just a bit of what they want to pass on young photographers.

"From what I read about Jim, he was hard-working. He was a perfectionist. And he was loved and respected by everyone," said Tiana Chavez, a 23-year-old journalism student at Arizona State University. Chavez is one of six college students to earn a scholarship from the James Alan Cox Foundation last year.

"Thanks so much to the Cox family," she said. "It's a great opportunity for college students, especially those of us who are trying to put ourselves though college. I'm very grateful.

"I hope that I can follow in his footsteps as a video journalist, as well," she continued.

Hundreds of student journalists from all over the country apply for the scholarships every year.

Since its inception, the James Alan Cox Foundation has awarded tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship funds and equipment to nearly 50 aspiring photojournalists throughout the country. Those students are Jim's legacy.

"The foundation reminds me of Jimmy every day and he's with me every day because of it," Leslie Cox said last year. "He's with me anyway but then the foundation is, and I know he's smiling."

The other 2012 scholarship recipients are Clayton Hotze of the University of Missouri, Vicki Chen of the University of Southern California, Madeline Hays of the University of Texas at Austin, Sean Patrick Lewis of the University of Southern California, and Brittany Morris of Arizona State University.

The 2012 high school recipients are Beteal Alemseghed of the Lotus School for Excellence in Aurora, Colo., Hagen Brown of Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, Ken., Kelci Davis of Francis Howell Central High School in St. Charles, Mo., Hannah Huang of Queens School of Inquiry in Flushing, NY, and Lisseth Lopez of Summer Creek High School in Houston.

To learn more about the James Alan Cox Foundation for Student Photojournalists or to make a donation to help support the photojournalists of the future, check out JamesAlanCoxFoundation.org.