Joseph P. Cox
President and CEO
Joe Cox has served as the President and CEO of the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida since February 2018. Founded in 1977, the Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and, inspires a passion for science and discovery in over 400,000 visitors annually. Prior to his current position, he has worked in the museum field for over 20 years having previously served as the President of the EcoTarium Museum of Science and Nature in Worcester, Massachusetts and as founding Executive Director of the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples where he led the campaign to raise over $25million to build the Museum. Throughout his career he has raised over $50million to fund museum capital campaigns. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science from St. Mary’s University in London with a focus on environmental law and paleoquaternary biogeography and completed his Masters in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester. Joe is the recipient of Fellowships from both the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. He is past Chair of the Florida Association of Museums Foundation and currently serves on the national board of the Association of Children’s Museums.
In his two years at the Museum of Discovery and Science he has focused on opening doors to the community, and ensuring that the Museum welcomes individuals from all walks of life to visit, experience, connect and discover inspiring science. The Museum strives to support all family structures, creating a culture of hospitality where diversity, equity, access and inclusion are celebrated. The Museum is open to everyone: individuals and families with physical and emotional disabilities and disparities in education, social and economic status.
Joe is dedicated to developing strong community partnerships and is committed to connecting people to inspiring science at the Museum of Discovery and Science.
Going back to when you first started with your organization to now, what has been your proudest personal accomplishment?
Throughout my career, I’ve focused on ensuring that diversity, equity, access and inclusion are embedded into the values of the museums I’ve had an opportunity to lead. This has resulted in tens of thousands of families being able to experience the incredible programs and opportunities at the museums thanks to initiatives such as “Museums for All” that is in place at the Museum of Discovery and Science.
Is there a saying, motto, or “words to live by” that is your favorite?
"Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." This quote is from the Queen in Through the Looking Glass and it encourages to imagine the impossible. If it weren't for the impossible dreams of Thomas Edison, would we have invented the airplane? At the Museum of Discovery and Science we truly believe in connecting people to inspiring science, and igniting imagination.
What is your greatest challenge at this time?
On March 16th, 2020 the Museum’s doors closed as a result of the COVID pandemic, and the impact on the cultural community was dramatic. While our doors may have been closed, the Museum remained open and accessible to the community, perhaps even more accessible than ever before. Thanks to the generous support of our donors and corporate partners, and the tireless work of our talented staff, the Museum has created over 100 innovative virtual outreach programs, ranging from hurricane preparedness and slime making to animal encounters and early childhood professional development. Through these initiatives, our connection with the community has not only been maintained, but we’ve grown our audience significantly.
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
Over the past twenty years I’ve had the good fortune to work for a number of incredible museums, and, while their goals may have varied slightly, their collective vision is to inspire a passion for science and discovery. Museums are a place where children encounter so many firsts – first time coming face to face with a dinosaur or Megalodon, first time at summer camp or on a field trip. We create memories that will last a life time, and in many cases, inspire future careers.
What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
I’ve always loved a good mint chocolate chip ice cream, preferably in a delicious waffle cone.
What three things are always in your refrigerator?
I’ve got a ridiculous sweet tooth, so my I always have a selection of British candy tucked away somewhere. I try to off set the sugar by always keep fruit and veggies on hand!
How do you relax?
There is something both relaxing and invigorating about diving into the pages of a great novel. Since childhood I’ve loved the excitement of flying through space and discovering distant planets or journeying with elves and magicians through far off lands.
What’s the best movie you have ever seen?
The original trilogy Star Wars movies, A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi truly shaped my childhood, my younger brother and I watched the movies, collected all of the toys, built incredible battle scenes and went on countless imaginary missions. One of the incredible experiences that we offer at the Museum of Discovery and Science is the spectacular AutoNation IMAX Theater – easily the best place to enjoy a movie in South Florida.
What is the best book you have ever read?
I must have been twelve when I first discovered “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was a natural progression from my obsession with the Narnia Chronicles. I must have read “Lord of the Rings” once a year for most of my life – such a spectacular book.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
While I’ve been fortunate to have visited many incredible countries, I’m at a point in my life where I truly value the time spent with family and friends – wherever they are is a great destination. Having said that, Peru was pretty spectacular!
When you were a child, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
One of my favorite books (and TV shows) growing up was “All Creatures Great and Small” by James Herriot. It’s the story of a dashing young veterinarian in Yorkshire and his menagerie of heartwarming, funny, and tragic animal patients (and equally funny and sometimes tragic humans). I was convinced that I wanted to become a veterinarian until my Dad wisely had me volunteer at a veterinary clinic! It turns out I wasn’t quite cut out for the job, but thankfully have usually been fortunate enough to work with a wonderful array of animals in museums.
What would you still like to learn how to do?
Bake cookies! I’ve tried, it’s not a skill I’ve mastered yet.