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Faye McNair-Knox
June 7, 1950-Sept. 12, 2018
East Palo Alto, California

Dr. Faye McNair-Knox, 68, executive director of the One East Palo Alto Neighborhood Improvement Initiative, died of medical complications at Kentfield Hospital in San Francisco on Wednesday, her daughter, Rashida Knox, told the Weekly.

McNair-Knox was a longtime East Palo Alto resident who helped restructure the nonprofit focused on serving the community established through a mulityear grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Her work earned her a "Woman of the Year" award for Assembly District 21 in 2010 and the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame in 2017.

The organization operates multiple programs that offer school-based crisis intervention support, provide mental health support services and aim to prevent substance abuse and crimes and address community safety issues, among other causes.

McNair-Knox also created the organization's Sponsored Employment Program, which has helped more than 1,100 East Palo Alto youth between the ages of 16 and 24 secure jobs, according to Rashida Knox.

Before taking the helm at One East Palo Alto in 2004, she had a five-year stint as executive director of Start Up, an East Palo Alto microbusiness initiative, according to her biography on One East Palo Alto's website. She has also held professorships across the country and in Africa.

She received her bachelor's degree and two master's degrees and doctorate degree in education at Stanford University. She also studied philosophy, linguistics, child development and language education from 1970 to 1985 at Stanford, according to her LinkedIn profile. McNair-Knox, a Fulbright scholar, went on to serve as the university's assistant dean of students and director of the Black Community Services Center.

McNair-Knox was inducted into Stanford's Multicultural Alumni Hall of Fame in 2001 and was awarded the Excellence in Economic Development Award by the Community Development Institute in East Palo Alto in 2004.

She was one of the founding members of the group that helped incorporate East Palo Alto; the musical director of Voices of Nairobi, a traveling music group founded in East Palo Alto and an original member of Congolese dance company Fua Dia Congo.

She was a major stakeholder for Digital Village, a program that increased access to technology for community members.

McNair-Knox also took a number of local residents to Africa. "(She) wanted people to understand that the world was vast and filled with opportunities," Rashida Knox said.

McNair-Knox was born on June 7, 1950 in Munich, Germany, where her father was stationed as a chaplain for the U.S. Army. Her family moved around before settling in East Palo Alto in the mid-1960s, according to Rashida Knox.

McNair-Knox's "very staunch foundation" propelled her to serve in impactful roles within the community and in academics, Rashida Knox said. She was an "ambassador" for the city that is rich in culture, education, heritage and community.

"My mother had a very keen knack for making people feel like they were the only person in the room. … She was charismatic and endearing and really sincere," Rashida Knox said. "She was a person who loved people and wanted to see people do their best."

McNair-Knox is survived by her daughters Halili Knox, Rashida Knox and Muisi-Kongo Malonga; sisters Dr. CorAnn Withers, Joyce Kolheim McNair and the Rev. Teirrah McNair; brother Joseph McNair; and grandsons Kiminou Knox and Matsoua Malonga.

Tags: teacher/educator, public service

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Memorial service
Two "quiet hours" are scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 26 from 9-11 a.m. and Thursday, Sept. 27 from 7-9 p.m. at Jones Mortuary, 660 Donohoe St., East Palo Alto. A funeral and celebration of life will be scheduled for sometime in October.

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