If the story of Arkansas Tech University is providing people with the opportunity to improve their lot in life, no one represents that story more than Jayne Jones.
Jones is retiring from her role as ATU executive director of advancement operations at the end of the 2021 calendar year. It marks the conclusion of a 46-year career at Arkansas Tech, making her one of the longest-tenured employees in ATU history.
Along the way, she advanced from an entry-level secretarial position to become the first female vice president in Arkansas Tech history. Her leadership helped the ATU Foundation develop into an essential support resource for the university’s mission of student access and success.
“Tammy Weaver (ATU registrar) was probably the first person who verbalized to me that seeing what I did inspired her,” said Jones. “I was humbled by that because, maybe I’m just a pragmatist, but I was just doing what I loved and it never occurred to me that I would be an inspiration to anyone else. It means a lot to me, and it tells me we never know who we impact…whether that’s with a kind word or showing people what can be done. That is something I’ve learned throughout my career.”
Arkansas Tech was still Arkansas Polytechnic College and Jones was less than two weeks beyond her 19th birthday when she reported for her first day of work on Jan. 5, 1976. Her first supervisor was Gerald Edgar, director of the Arkansas Tech news bureau.
“I am eternally grateful to Mr. Edgar,” said Jones.
By October 1978, Jones had earned her first promotion. She became administrative secretary for Dix Stallings, vice president for public affairs.
It was during that same year Jones began her pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in business administration. She characterizes her degree path as the “10-year plan.”
“There are students who have made it with far less family support than I had,” said Jones. “I was fortunate as a single parent that my parents were right here. My son, Jayson (Crabb), would have been a latch key kid were it not for that. I have an appreciation for students who are pursuing their degrees non-traditionally. Those three and six hours per semester add up, and the next thing you know you have 60 or 120 hours. I applaud them because you have to sacrifice some things, but we prioritize the things that are most important to us. Education has always been a priority for me, even though it wasn’t my reason for coming to work here.”
In addition to her family, Jones credits assistance and wisdom from faculty mentors in helping her reach graduation day. She recalls how Dr. Bill Seidensticker, then dean of the ATU School of Liberal and Fine Arts, advised her on the value of accepting an associate degree in general studies.
“That has been one of the greatest things and common threads here at Tech… those faculty members who go above and beyond,” said Jones. “I always say I’m a disciple of Bill Lemley.”
Soon after receiving her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in May 1988, Jones’ career began to accelerate.
She became director of student accounts in 1989, business manager in 1993 and was shortly thereafter promoted to associate vice president for administration and finance.
Under the leadership of David Moseley, then vice president for administration and finance, Jones had the opportunity to oversee such operating areas as payroll, food service, student financial aid and the bookstore.
She also assisted with construction management, and there were plenty of construction and renovation projects to manage. Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center, Doc Bryan Student Services Center and Nutt Residence Hall are facilities Jones helped build.
“Those were some really wonderful years,” said Jones. “I was able to work on some projects in administration and finance that fed a passion. I’ve always loved house plans, and that was a time of extreme growth in the physical plant at Arkansas Tech. I worked on many of those construction projects, and I loved it. I learned how to read blueprints and Doug Walton, the electrician in facilities, taught me a lot…David Moseley did too. He was a great mentor and a great sounding board.”
Jones’ pursuit of education continued as her career responsibilities grew. She became a Certified Public Accountant and began taking classes toward a Master of Education degree in instructional technology, which she obtained in May 2001. A few months later, then ATU President Dr. Robert C. Brown offered her an opportunity to become vice president for development.
When Jones took office as vice president, the ATU Foundation portfolio stood at approximately $7.5 million. As she retires from the ATU Division of Advancement two decades later, that figure is in excess of $50 million.
“I am thankful to those people in the beginning who sowed the seeds and got it started,” said Jones when asked about the growth of the ATU Foundation. “I mean even back to people like C.R. Turner and Bert Mullens. They saw the importance of philanthropy and private dollars, and as the years have gone on and state funding has decreased percentage wise, it has become even more important. I am proud to have been whatever small part of that growth. The relationships and the people are the best part of the job. I value those relationships highly and I am fortunate that those people have been in my life and part of my story.”
A significant percentage of the growth in the ATU Foundation has been a result of alumni and other donors supporting privately-funded scholarships for Arkansas Tech students.
“That is the bottom line,” said Jones. “That is why we are all here, and it’s the reason why the endowment and trust fund was incorporated in the first place. Being on the student accounts side of it for a time, I know the impact that even a relatively small scholarship can have for a student. It can be a lifeline for a lot of students. When we help a student achieve their goal, it’s not just that student. It’s the communities in which they end up living, it’s the families they came from and the ones they have in the future…it’s generational. It’s incredible.”
Memories? She has more than a few. Most of them center around the individuals she worked with, the alumni with whom she developed relationships and the students they all supported. Class registration days in the W.O. Young Building Ballroom and building dedication events are among the snapshots she’ll carry with her.
“Hindsman Tower…that was one of the best days ever,” said Jones while reflecting on the many facility dedications she helped plan. “When Bob and Sandra Norman got here and she was wearing his letter sweater, I thought we’d done a good thing. All of my best memories involve people.”
Jones promises she’ll still “darken the doors” of Arkansas Tech…at least in between NASCAR trips with her husband, Tom.
After 46 years, there’s too much of her at Arkansas Tech to stay away for long.
“Tech is my second home,” said Jones. “Maybe part of it is starting as young as I did. The people have been a big part of it. There is nothing like the energy on a college campus, especially when the fall semester is starting. It’s like a renewal every year. So, the students are a large part of it. Yes, colleagues, mentors, friends…but the energy from the students is electric.
“As I was getting closer to earning my degree, people started asking me where I was going next and what I wanted to do with my life,” continued Jones. “I couldn’t imagine a place I’d rather be than Arkansas Tech. If I was going to be working, I wanted it to be at Arkansas Tech.”