Hard to Keep Up with the Joneses

Don and Flo Jones of Crowley, Louisiana, may be 800 miles away, but they stay connected to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, through the friends they’ve made in their years of service to the institution. They still enjoy a good discussion about the state of the campus and have strong opinions about the future of UT.

Don is a 1950 College of Arts and Sciences graduate and has been an active volunteer for the college and the university for more than 30 years.

“My time at the University of Tennessee was marvelous,” said Don. “I think I was one of the luckiest people alive. All my experiences there were great.”

Don majored in geology (now earth and planetary sciences), and after graduating he became an independent geologist and investor in oil and gas properties. He also was a founding partner of Shoreline Geophysics Services and vice-chairman of the board of the First National Bank of Crowley.

For all his professional success, Don never forgot his loyalty to the university. In 1979 Dean of Liberal Arts Robert Landen founded the college’s Board of Visitors, an outside group that could offer advice about the college’s operations and how to improve its prospects. Don was asked to be a founding member.

“I was very flattered and delighted to be asked,” he said. “That was such a great group of people to work with. We were very active for a long time, and I think we really did some good things for the university.”

The group established community outreach as a priority of the college, navigated early differences in campus–system relations and helped facilitate the relationship between UT Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

“I think the lab partnership was one of our most difficult tasks,” Don said. “But that relationship has enhanced UT’s national stature, and I believe we’ve been able to offer our expertise for research. It is such an important relationship.”

Although not a graduate of UT, Flo found a home at UT in the tight-knit bond of that first board (she is an alumna of Southwestern Louisiana, where she served as president of the Women’s Student Government Association).

“The board was always very welcoming to spouses,” she said. “We were invited to participate in discussions, and we offered ideas. Everyone at UT made you feel like family even if you didn’t go here. We’ve made so many friends at UT over the years. It’s like home to us.”

After their 11 active years on the board, they have continued to support the college through financial donations and volunteer time. One of their most important contributions has been their institutional knowledge and memory of important decisions from the college’s past.

“Don and Flo Jones have been unflagging in their support of the College of Arts and Sciences throughout the years and always passionate in their commitment to its continued excellence,” said Bruce Bursten, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “When as dean I face difficult decisions, I always value Don’s wisdom and experience.”

Don was co-chair for the natural sciences division of the college for the 21st Century fundraising campaign in the 1990s. They were also early supporters of the College Scholars program and have worked closely with and supported the earth and planetary sciences program.

“Don and Flo Jones’s generous gifts have transformed the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences,” said Hap McSween, interim department head. “They helped us build an environmental geology program and enhanced our undergraduate program through support for field studies. Don has also participated in our Advisory Board, providing useful advice based on a long and successful career in petroleum geology.”

Besides their work with the College of Arts and Sciences, Don and Flo have given years of service to the Knoxville campus. Don received a Citation for Extraordinary Service to UT in 1993, and the couple received the Volunteer of the Year award in 2000.

“They have really exemplified the Volunteer creed, both in service to the College of Arts and Sciences and as early supporters of the College Scholars program and earth and planetary sciences,” said Linda Davidson, vice-chancellor for development and alumni affairs. “At their core, they want this place to be as good as it can be for students and faculty, and they’ve never wavered from that.”

Don and Flo still live in Crowley, where their son Greg is the mayor. Their son Kyle is a professional musician in San Francisco, and they have three grandchildren, including a granddaughter who is the first girl born into their family in more than a hundred years.

—Beth Gladden