Joel Mackey Jones

Joel Mackey JonesJoel Mackey Jones, President Emeritus of Fort Lewis College, died at his home in Durango, Colorado on July 13, 2016, following an 18-month battle with brain cancer. He was 78.

Dr. Jones was born to Theodore Roosfelt Jones and Edna Mae Mackey Jones on August 11, 1937, in Millersburg, Ohio. He was delivered by his paternal grandfather, John Martin Jones, a country doctor in Holmes County, Ohio.

A graduate of Chagrin Falls High School in Ohio, Dr. Jones received his B.A. from Yale University in 1960, his M.A. at Miami of Ohio in 1963 and his Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of New Mexico in 1966. In 1969 he became the chairperson of American Studies at the University of New Mexico, and over the next 19 years at UNM, he served as the Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, Associate Provost and Dean of Faculties, and Vice President for Administration, Planning, and Student Affairs.

Dr. Jones became President of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado in June,1988. His tenure at FLC encompassed not only the height of its enrollment at 4200 students, it also witnessed the historic change of the school’s mascot from “the Raiders” to “the Skyhawks,” and the transformation of the campus following the collapse of the Fine Arts Building in 1993 due to snowfall. During his presidency, the college enjoyed unprecedented support from the community as well as the state legislature, and also experienced a campus-wide sense of shared goals and aspirations. As a result, this period was often described as the “Camelot Years.”

Dr. Jones’s research and publications covered such topics as: American social/intellectual history, leadership training, cultural pluralism, environmental studies, educational planning and program development. In 1972 he received the distinguished achievement award from the Educational Press Association of America, and was also named to an American Council on Education Administrative Fellowship. He published more than 80 scholarly articles and reviews. He was a member of the Board of Consultants for the National Endowment of the Humanities, served as a consultant for institutions ranging from two-year colleges to comprehensive research universities, and served on the Commission on Leadership Development of the American Council on Education.

From 1992 through 1994 Dr. Jones served as chair of the AASCU (American Association of State Colleges and Universities) Committee on Multiculturalism and Social Change. He also served as Colorado’s representative on AASCU’s Council of State Representatives from 1995 to 1997. After serving ten years (1988-1998) as the president of Fort Lewis College, he chose to finish his career by returning to his first love, teaching and writing, and remained at Fort Lewis College as President Emeritus and Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies. During his transition to “retirement,” he served six months as the interim superintendent of schools for Durango District 9-R, following which he spent the academic year 1999-2000 as the interim President of Salisbury University in the University of Maryland system. His last administrative role was as the Executive Director of the Durango Chamber of Commerce during the year 2002 — and for the past several years, he lectured and wrote a monthly column on leadership.

In 2007, the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees changed the name of the Fine Arts Building to Jones Hall, in honor of Joel’s outstanding service to higher education. His service to the field of education was as far-reaching as his passion for learning, and in 2010 he was appointed to the Colorado Governor’s Commission on Early Childhood Leadership. He continued to serve on the boards of the Fort Lewis College Foundation, the Early Childhood Association of La Plata County, the Foreign Credential Services of America, and chaired both the San Juan Symphony and the Durango Chamber of Commerce boards.

Joel’s family continued to be a source of strength and pride for him throughout his life. He married Carolyn Sue Sill on June 9, 1963, and although their 17-year marriage ended in divorce, he always considered their two daughters, Carolyn (Cammie) Mae and Jocelyn Corrine, to be the “bedrock of his existence.” He had two subsequent marriages to Nancy Lee Magnuson on May 28, 1982, and Julie Marie Simons on August 11,1993. Julie’s death in 2001 prompted Joel to become a staunch advocate for suicide prevention and mental health services in La Plata County.

On March 11, 2006, Joel married his longtime friend and colleague, Rochelle Gayl Mann, then Chair of the Music Department at Fort Lewis College. Together they experienced over ten years of rewarding professional development, personal joy, and they also welcomed four new grandchildren to the existing three.

Dr. Jones is survived by his wife, Rochelle (Shelley) Mann, of Durango; sister Judy Jones of Eureka Springs, Arkansas; daughters Carolyn (Cammie) Nichols and Jocelyn Strauss of Albuquerque, New Mexico; stepsons Philip Mann of Little Rock, Arkansas, and Scott Mann of Denver, Colorado; and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for July 28 at 1:00 PM in the Fort Lewis College Concert Hall. Memorial donations may be sent to the Joel M. Jones Family Scholarship Endowment in care of the Fort Lewis College Foundation or to the Hospice of Mercy Foundation in Durango, Colorado.

Published in Albuquerque Journal on July 17, 2016