If hed followed his familys initial expectations, a founder of one of Columbus largest law firms would never have been an attorney.
It was always assumed by my family I was going to be a doctor, says Benjamin L. Zox, president and CEO of Schottenstein, Zox & Dunn LPA, noting relatives thought hed follow in the footsteps of an uncle who was a general surgeon.
It was more a function of the times, growing up the 50s, Zox explains. Every Jewish mother wanted her son to be a doctor first or a lawyer second and wanted her daughter to marry a doctor first or a lawyer second.
When I got to be a sophomore in high school, maybe 15 years old, I decided I didnt like the sciences, Zox says, and I also saw my uncle being called away from family gatherings for emergencies.
Zox mustered up the nerve to tell his father one evening.
His immediate response was, Thats OK; so youll be a lawyer, Zox recalls. Thats how I got started thinking about it. Im more suited for that anyway.
In fact, Zox says hed choose the same career if he had to start over.
I think theres a lot of opportunity to help those less fortunate, both in your law practice and in your spare time, he says. Ive enjoyed the opportunities its given me to do those things.
Zox takes as inspiration for his leadership abilities the example of Mel Schottenstein, another founder of his firm, who died in 1993.
No. 1 he was a tireless worker, Zox says of his mentor. And he was totally dedicated in this order to his family, to his law firm and to his community. He was a very generous person both with his time and his resources.
Generally reserved and deliberate in his conversation, Zox, 62, lights up at talk of Julie, his wife of 40 years, and their three children.
Of course one of my favorite hobbies are my three beautiful granddaughters, Zox says, quick to show off a photograph of them.
His law firm, founded in 1966, has grown to 100 lawyers with 1999 revenues expected to exceed $25 million. The firms clients include Bank One, The Huntington National Bank, the City of Dublin, Schottenstein Stores Corp. and Highlights for Children. He attributes the firms success to its ability to attract quality lawyers.
Of course in a law firm the most important asset is the people, and I think we have as fine people as you could find in a law firm anywhere, both in terms of their ability as lawyers and their character as people, he says. I like to look at our firm as an extended family. I think its a very friendly place to work.
Following in the community dedication of his mentor, Zox has served a long list of professional, religious and service organizations.
He particularly has enjoyed his presidency of the Columbus Bar Association and the privilege it gave him to be recognized by his peers as a spokesman for his career. In addition, he led the YMCA of Central Ohio Restoring the Glory campaign, raising $21 million to renovate the downtown facility.
Zoxs current community involvement includes his service as a trustee and vice chairman of the Leo Yassenoff Foundation; board member of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce and The Capital Club; chairman of the National Council of the College of Law at The Ohio State University; and endowment fund chairman of the Columbus Bar Foundation.
While Zoxs reserved and self-described conservative nature leads him to talk of his accomplishments without fanfare, his leadership abilities are not lost on others in the community.
Ben Zox is a successful attorney, humanitarian, husband and father of three who dwells in the love of his God and family, YMCA President and CEO John Bickley wrote in support of Zoxs nomination to the Central Ohio Business Hall of Fame. Although he has never basked in his own success, he is the epitome of most peoples dreams.
Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Sally Jackson says Zox sets an outstanding example of community leadership and dedication to making Greater Columbus a better place to live, work and raise a family for people of all races, religions and creeds.
She lauds his vision as chair of the chambers CEO Ambassadors, which he formed late last year with 15 other community leaders to present a positive image of the community to CEOs who are new in town.
In the future, we want to focus on helping to attract new companies to Columbus on a CEO-to-CEO level and encourage companies already here to expand here rather than elsewhere, Zox says.
Asked which business leaders he admires, Zox declined to give a local list, fearing to leave out anyone.
Columbus is fortunate to have a large number of business leaders who are also unselfish community leaders, he says.
What he will list without hesitation are the qualities he thinks make a successful leader: One must be unselfish, a consensus builder, a good listener, decisive and willing to take risks and positions that are not necessarily popular.
Unknowingly, he echoed the sentiments his nominators offered of his own personality:
I think, No. 1, you have to be sensitive, Zox says. You have to be able to motivate people, and you have to lead not only by what you say but by what you do.
Another of Zoxs nominators, Judge Cynthia Lazarus of the 10th District Court of Appeals, says Zox, by example, has helped change the character of his profession, his community of faith and his city.
The rest of us are the beneficiaries of his skills, his dedication, his beliefs, Lazarus says. We, in this community, have been shaped by him in innumerable ways and form his legacy.
Joan Slattery Wall (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a reporter for SBN.