Engaging Minds, Transforming Lives


William B. Jones, Ph.D

Professor of History Emeritus

Dr. Bill Jones recalls fondly the time one of his students, a young woman from Germany, phoned to wish him a happy Father's Day. "You are my American father," she had said.

He recounts that another former student, an American working in Korea, pays him a visit each year when he returns to the U.S. A half-world apart, good memories of times together keep them close between reunions.

"The students-they all contribute to me," says Dr. Jones, one of Southwestern's most revered professors. "I enjoy more than anything getting to know them individually."

During his 32-year tenure at Texas' first university, Dr. Jones has become a father figure and mentor to many, as well as an admired leader, having served as both administrator and head of Southwestern's History Department. Two years shy of retirement, he has shaped Southwestern's past and present in ways that matter most, playing an active role in the evolution of the University. And he has done it all out of his love for the place.

"Southwestern has given my life a definition," he says.

Dr. Jones came to Southwestern in 1965 to fill the Lucy King Brown Chair in History. An ordained minister with a doctorate from Vanderbilt University, he soon established the basic pattern of the history curriculum, including basic coursework in world civilizations and advanced study in historiography, which is still followed today. Later, he created the University's international studies program, which has grown into one of the most popular majors.

In 1975, then-President Durwood Fleming invited Dr. Jones to become administrative vice president and provost in recognition of his leadership prowess.

"This was the era when computers were coming on board," he says. "I love to work with computers and electronic devices." He set up his own computer database as provost, information that proved invaluable to Southwestern as it began emerging as one of the nation's strongest regional liberal arts institutions. Following President Roy Shilling's arrival in 1981, Dr. Jones worked closely with faculty to develop the University's Master Plan, which he has helped coordinate since. He also worked with the Mathematics Department to develop the computer science program.

Dr. Jones also originated the idea leading to the creation of Southwestern's Brown Symposium Series, an annual event which brings to campus persons of national and international repute in areas represented by the holders of endowed Brown professorships. Distinct from the traditional lecture series, these symposia are integrated into the regular curricular design of the University, and the members of the symposia participate in a total education experience. Funding is made possible through The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston.

In 1985, Dr. Jones returned to teaching history, assumed the position of director of institutional research, and established the National Minority Faculty Identification Program. Now in its twelfth year, the program seeks to help identify and place minority faculty in participating institutions. Currently 250 institutions and 1000 minority candidates are enrolled in the program.

In 1994, Dr. Jones did much of the background work which helped secure a Phi Beta Kappa chapter for Southwestern as well as a $6.8 million award from the F.W. Olin Foundation of New York for the construction of a hi-tech academic building. Both successes underscore the University's movement that same year from its regional category of liberal arts colleges into a more selective category of 160 national liberal arts colleges.

In January of 1996, Dr. Jones moved back into a top administrative seat as interim provost for a six-month period, until a new provost was hired. Along with assisting the provost in the early stages of his time at Southwestern, Dr. Jones is orchestrating the union of the Office of Institutional Research with the Office of the Registrar.

But the classroom remains his passion. A European historian, Dr. Jones specializes in early modern Europe, with a secondary specialty in Latin America.

"I went to seminary at Emory thinking I was going to be a pastor," he says. "But my wife majored in Spanish, then studied in Mexico, so we decided to volunteer for missionary service." From 1953 to 1958, he served as a missionary in Santiago, Chile, and taught in a high school run by the Methodist Church. The school prepared young people to teach in rural areas where churches had developed schools in lieu of government-funded facilities.

A member of the Rio Grande Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, the only Spanish-speaking conference, Dr. Jones also has been a counselor to Southwestern's Hispanic Student group-now called Latinos Unidos-and he has worked with Gethsemani Church, one of Georgetown's Hispanic churches. He continues to make periodic trips to Honduras as a language and cultural translator for M.E.D.I.C.O., a Georgetown-based foundation that brings medical aid to rural residents who have little access to medical care.

Upon retirement in June of 1999, Dr. Jones plans to become a full-time volunteer, and to continue his work in the church. Reflecting upon his tenure at Southwestern, he says, "The sense of momentum here has been the single most outstanding characteristic. There is just a sense that Southwestern is a school on the move. This had been achieved at the same time that a very human dimension has been maintained. By and large, it's a family."

While wearing his trademark grin, he adds, "I never had a day when I didn't want to go to work. I will miss the day-to-day involvement in what I feel has been a very rewarding journey."