Janice Wilcox

Janice Wilcox (Handout photo, Baltimore Sun / July 16, 2014)

Janice H. Wilcox, former chief of staff for higher-education programs at the U.S. Department of Education and founder and CEO of Education Resources Group, died June 26 of neuroendocrine disease at her Towson home.

She was 73.

"Janice was the founder of the Patuxent Women's Coalition, and I was a member long before I became a City Councilwoman," said Sharon Green Middleton. "She touched my life, and I will always be grateful to her. She was the kind of person who did the little things in life well."

The daughter of Robert Horde Sr., a cabdriver, and Gertrude Baker Horde, a homemaker, Janice Horde was born in Baltimore and raised in West Baltimore.

A Frederick Douglass High School graduate, Ms. Wilcox earned a bachelor's degree in 1961 from what was then Coppin State College, and in 1965, earned a master's degree from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles.

She "was educated in Baltimore City public schools during what she referred to as the 'period of enlightenment,' when the very best African-American teachers, often in segregated school environments, devoted their talents, brilliance and dedication to ensure that their charges were academically challenged and prepared to compete in a world that often prejudges students with lower expectations," according to an obituary written by Ms. Wilcox.

Ms. Wilcox did further graduate work at the University of California at Los Angeles, Mount St. Mary's College and Loyola Marymount University, both in Los Angeles, and the University of Maryland, College Park.

Before joining the U.S. Department of Education in 1986, Ms. Wilcox's career included employment by Baltimore, St. Croix, Los Angeles and Washington public schools. She also had worked for the California Commission for Teacher Preparation and Licensing.

At the Department of Education, where she was chief of staff for higher-education programs, Ms. Wilcox was a pioneer.

She "took great pride in drawing attention to the need for programs to encourage pre-college preparation and degree attainment among first-generation college attendees," according to the obituary.

"The department now offers a number of funded initiatives for this at-risk group that were envisioned and developed during her tenure," she said.

After she retired from the education department in 2001, she founded and served as CEO of Education Resources Group, a consulting firm she established to aid underserved youth of the greater Baltimore-Washington area.

Another concern of Ms. Wilcox's was that lower-income children become financially literate at the earliest possible age to "avoid predatory practices and to increase the likelihood of financial independence," the obituary said.

This led Ms. Wilcox to design the "How Green Are Your Dollars?" program, and she founded the Green Dollars Project in 2006.

"The program, which was in conjunction with Baltimore public schools, showed kids how to spend money before they made it. These were at-risk kids," said her brother, Robert Hord of Plainview, N.Y., who worked with Ms. Wilcox on the program.

"We had university professors who were aboard and an attorney. It was a fair group of people," said Mr. Hord. "My job was to identify donors like Xerox, where I once worked, and private people."

"Janice loved helping people and was such a caring person," said Ms. Middleton, who represents Northwest Baltimore.

In 1990, Ms. Wilcox founded the Patuxent Women's Coalition in Silver Spring, and in the late 1990s, established a Baltimore chapter of the organization that distributed new infants' clothing to local agencies serving mothers and grandmothers of low-income families. The coalition also awarded scholarships that enabled single mothers to study at local colleges such as Coppin State University, Morgan State University and area community colleges.

Alice Sue Cooper-Lee met Ms. Wilcox when they were college freshmen, and later they became close friends. She also became an active member of the Patuxent Women's Coalition.

"We were kindred spirits, no-nonsense, and believed in the same things. She was about service and giving back. She was one of God's bright lights," said Ms. Cooper-Lee, who taught for several years in city public schools before becoming a Baltimore County public schools counselor.

"Janice was not showy and never wanted the spotlight. She wanted to make sure that whatever she did impacted the community, especially the less fortunate," said Ms. Cooper-Lee, who retired from Baltimore County after working for 30 years as a counselor.

"She wanted to help black people and children. ... She reached out to them and had them stand on her shoulders," said Ms. Cooper-Lee. "She wanted to make a difference in their lives."

"It is estimated that during its 20 years of existence, the organization awarded some $50,000 in scholarships and contributed more than 5,000 items of new babies' clothing and blankets," according to the obituary.

"Janice excelled at bringing out the best in women and especially women of color. I give her a lot of credit for that and helping me realize my potential," said Ms. Middleton. "She also brought a great sense of sophistication and felt that whatever you did, you did well."

Ms. Wilcox was a member of the Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, La Coterie of Washington, the Washington and Chesapeake chapters of the Society Inc., and an alumni member of Links Inc.

Services are private.

In addition to her brother and niece, Ms. Wilcox is survived by her daughter, Kia Miguel Smith of Silver Spring; two other brothers, Charles Hord of Catonsville, and Gary DeShields of McKeesport, Pa.; sisters, Marlene Green, Pamela Barnes and Penelope Wilson, all of Baltimore, and Jacqueline Sanchez of Dallas; two grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. Her two marriages ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

An earlier version misattributed several quotes that came from an obituary written by Ms. Wilcox. Other survivors have also been added. The Sun regrets the errors.