Sonny Fox

The Norman Lear Center mourns the loss of our friend and supporter Irwin “Sonny” Fox, who passed away in January 2021 at the age of 95. Fox was a beloved television host and broadcaster who hosted children’s programs including Wonderama, Let’s Take a Trip, Just for Fun and On Your Mark. He served as president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and became an impassioned advocate for social impact entertainment. He was also a board member of the Lear Center’s Hollywood, Health & Society program.

Read more about Sonny Fox’s life here (New York Times).

We remember him in these tributes from his colleagues.

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Albert Bandura: On Sonny’s legacy

I am deeply saddened by Sonny Fox’s passing. I will greatly miss his delightful emails. He left a wonderful legacy for children. Read more.

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Vicki Beck: Remembering Sonny

I first encountered Sonny on a street corner in Atlanta in 1998. A tall man in a gray suit with a swatch of silver hair stepped from the curb and hailed me down for a ride. He’d journeyed from LA to meet with experts in the hallowed halls of the CDC. At the time, I was director of the agency’s Entertainment-Education program. Read more.

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Peter Clarke: Fox’s leadership in entertainment education

Sonny Fox contributed in many ways to the understanding of how to use storytelling as a tool for social change. Sonny filled leadership roles at Population Communications International (PCI), launching radio and video entertainments across the globe that addressed public health issues. Read more.

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Marty Kaplan: “I couldn’t help being starstruck.”

I belong to the generation of kids who grew up in the New York metropolitan area watching Sonny Fox host Wonderama, his four-hour Sunday afternoon show on WNEW-TV. He was as big a star to me – and to many others, I’d bet, given the space his New York Times obituary devotes to the show – as were the hosts of Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room and other pioneers of children’s educational television. Read more.

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Doe Mayer: “The energizer bunny of entertainment-education”

I have always thought of Sonny Fox as the energizer bunny of entertainment-education. His enthusiasm for the field was contagious and so passionate that I was constantly renewed by both working with him and just visiting or socializing with him over the past 20 years. Read more.

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Katie Mota: “He was a connector”

Sonny – what a life you lived and legacy you have left behind. If it were you writing this you would have the perfectly witty thing to say. Even over email, a relatively mundane medium, you always found a way to make it interesting and make me laugh. Read more.

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Bill Ryerson: Fox’s work with the Population Media Center

During the time Sonny chaired the Population Media Center board, I was serving as Executive Vice President there. I suggested we add Cely Arndt to the board. Thus began a nearly 30-year romance that changed the lives of Sonny and Cely in wonderful ways. Read more.

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Paula Woodley: “I’m sure wherever you are, you are still telling stories”

My memories of Sonny Fox are filled with gratitude, friendship and storytelling. I first met Sonny more than 20 years ago when he joined a non-profit board of directors that I sat on. We struck up a rather unlikely friendship (considering our age difference) and often had lunch while he regaled me with stories of his remarkable life. Read more.

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If you would like to contribute a recollection, please email it to enter@usc.edu with Sonny Fox in the subject line.