Every college has at least one: the teacher whose classes are always booked, the teacher who is “cool,” who inspires students to really think, to go that extra mile. Dr. Gregg Cox, now vice president of academic affairs at Lynn University, was one of those teachers—and even if he works now in a more administrative role, his reputation as MVP at Lynn is legendary.

With a degree from Florida in chemistry, a master’s in math and a Ph.D. in education from FAU, Cox was hired in 1981 to teach math at what was then the College of Boca Raton. Over the years, the gig seems to have stuck; he has since been a department chair, women’s golf coach, the dean of three colleges, academic dean and now this, the grand poobah of all deans.

And he’s been voted Teacher of the Year three times.

Still, he’s the same Dr. Cox who puts on his hat and shades and sits on a random bench on campus now and then, so he can talk to students on their own turf.

“I tell students when you see me on the bench, stop and talk to me. And it’s amazing what they talk about.” he says. “At first they would keep their heads down and act like they didn’t see me, but I call them out when they walk by. I think it works.”

Here’s what Gregg Cox had to say the day we called him out.

On being a science guy: People tend to fall in one of two categories. Their brain works really well in math/science or it works really well in the arts/philosophical side. I’m sort of a linear thinker—let’s get to the answer and make sure it’s the right answer. I’ve always liked that about math.

I don’t mind philosophical discussions, but I don’t many times find them terribly rewarding. Like when people have meetings with me, I like by the end of the meeting for everyone to know what has got to be done. With the arts it’s “Let’s talk about it some more, let’s think about it some more, you’re right and I’m right and we’re all right.” Generally I think I’m right and everybody else is wrong.

Favorite part of teaching: The payback is the little light that goes on. There’s a look on a student’s face when you know that they know.

On his image: People have said on my evaluations that “I have never enjoyed failing a class more.” I think they know I care and I’m trying. But I’m also realistic. I explain to them, “This is not like being an 8-year-old on the soccer team where everybody gets a trophy. If you can’t solve these problems, you can’t pass this class.”

Biggest challenge in teaching today: The kids come in with a greater expectation that you will do more for them. Their parents have done too much for them, in my opinion, and they have created this expectation that the world revolves around them. … Most of these kids have never been allowed to fail at anything, and some of the greatest lessons you learn in life are through your failures, not through your successes.

How he stays cool: I do not stress out over a lot of things. I’ve accepted that it’s an absolute waste of energy to worry about something you have no control over. A problem is like a puzzle, and I really enjoy solving puzzles, so what I spend my time thinking about are solutions—how can we make this better?

On dressing the part: When I took this job I said to the president that I’d do it on an interim basis. I’ve got my own kind of way, and I said “Do you expect me to wear a suit and tie every day?” And he laughed and said, “You wouldn’t be you of you did that. But will you wear one sometimes?”

Words to live by: I am not one of these people who believe you can be anyone you want to be, or you can do anything you want to do. It’s not true. It’s nice to say that to your children, but at a certain point you have to say, “It’s important to keep as many options open as you can for as long as you can, because the older you get, the fewer options you are going to have.”