Barry McNamara  |  Published October 11, 2022

Worth the Read

Addison Cox ’23, who was named Monmouth College  Lincoln Laureate, has excelled in the classroom and in athletic competition. 

LINCOLN LAUREATE: Addison Cox receives congratulations on her honor from Monmouth President Clare... LINCOLN LAUREATE: Addison Cox receives congratulations on her honor from Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Before doing an internet search on “the lost art of reading,” be prepared to find a lot of material, particularly related to the “distracted time” in which we live.

Senior Addison Cox of Morton, Illinois, however, is a practitioner of the art, and it’s one of the reasons she was named Monmouth College’s recipient of the Abraham Lincoln Civic Engagement Award, thereby becoming a Student Laureate of the Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Student Laureates are honored for their overall excellence in curricular and cocurricular activities and, at Monmouth, they receive the privilege of speaking at their Commencement ceremony in the spring.

A double major in English and philosophy and religious studies, Cox estimates she reads around 200 pages a day. A percentage, of course, is for her classes – in which she’s posted a sterling GPA of 3.973 – but much of it is for pleasure and personal growth.

Reading list

Asked to name three of her favorite books, Cox listed The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Of Song of Solomon, she said, “It changed how I feel about a lot of things.” Stardust, she said, “blew my mind. I read it when I was 12, and it stuck with me. It showed me what storytelling could be like.” The Color Purple, she said, “is with me all the time.”

“I was super jealous of the experience they were having, working with an interdisciplinary journal that talks about wildly different things. My junior year, I was approached about joining the staff, and I was ecstatic.” Addison Cox

Cox has even incorporated reading into one of her many Monmouth cocurricular activities. She’s as an editor for the College’s Midwest Journal of Undergraduate Research, also known as MJUR. In fact, four of Monmouth’s last six Lincoln Laureates were MJUR editors.

“I was friends with a few students who did MJUR,” she said. “I was super jealous of the experience they were having, working with an interdisciplinary journal that talks about wildly different things. My junior year, I was approached about joining the staff, and I was ecstatic.”

The experience has been everything she hoped it would be.

“It’s a different way of reading than I’ve done before,” she said. “It’s a student-led conversation, with all of us coming together to decide which pieces are best for inclusion in the journal.”

Her philosophy of reading

Cox’s passion for reading was further enriched when she began taking classes in philosophy and religious studies.

“I thought about studying genetics or STEM, but I knew I couldn’t be without books for too long,” said Cox of her decision to major in English. “When I was making out my first schedule, I needed a fourth class, and my adviser told me that a religious studies class would be a good opportunity for me.”

That adviser was a professor from the department, Ermine Algaier, and Cox said his advice was spot on.

“I realized I really, really liked this stuff,” she said. “It’s changing the way I read books. I thought to myself, ‘I have to keep doing this, or I’ll miss a critical component of my education.’”

Cox added the subject as a minor and has since declared it as a major. She’s intrigued by the overlap between her two majors and will focus on that concept for her capstone project.

“I’m very interested in how language creates who we are and makes us the person we are,” she said.

Outside the classroom

Around campus, part of Cox’s identity is that of a leader. She’s been a first-year student mentor, an orientation leader, a first-generation peer mentor, a member of the residence life staff and a writing tutor – all positions that epitomize the Student Laureate honor.

A Monmouth College Presidential Scholarship recipient and winner of the Thompson Prize in Humanities, Cox is a member of the James and Sybil Stockdale Fellows Leadership Program. She’s also held executive positions with two honorary societies – Alpha Lambda Delta and Sigma Tau Delta.

The opportunity to continue her track and field career was an important part of Cox’s decision to attend Monmouth. She said throws coach Brian Woodard, who now serves as the team’s head coach, recruited her.

“Once he reaches out, he doesn’t stop,” said Cox. “He also talked to me about school, and he helped me set up a campus visit where I was able to sit in on a poetry class with David Wright.”

A highlight of Cox’s collegiate career was last spring’s outdoor conference meet. Monmouth’s women won the team title, with everyone stepping up their performance, including Cox and her throwing teammates.

“It’s gotten me thinking about education as a fundamental right. Incarcerated individuals don’t get to interact with society the way most people do, and for some, they don’t even let them learn. That would be my personal hell – to be locked up and not able to read.” Addison Cox


“We really knocked it out at that meet,” said Cox, who placed fourth in the shot put and hammer throw. “And our runners were pulling out these wild times. There was a lot of energy at the meet. It was electric, almost.”

Beyond Monmouth

Cox figures to compete in track right up to the day before her graduation, if not beyond. She’ll then turn her attention to her plans of pursuing a doctorate in English. She said she might use her doctorate to become a professor, but she’s also interested in providing better access to higher education for incarcerated individuals. To that end, she’s been working with representatives of the Illinois Coalition for Higher Education in Prison to bring a chapter to Monmouth’s campus.

“It’s gotten me thinking about education as a fundamental right,” said Cox. “Incarcerated individuals don’t get to interact with society the way most people do, and for some, they don’t even let them learn. That would be my personal hell – to be locked up and not able to read.”

Listen Up …

On “Monmouth College Conversations” podcast, Addison Cox ’23 discusses three of her favorite novels, winning a conference championship with the track and field team, and discovering her second major.

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