Georgia Southern’s legacy is more than its academic accolades, athletics accomplishments and the legendary red-brick and white-columned buildings that wrap around Sweetheart Circle. A university’s saga is built upon inspiring people and those who have passed through during Southern’s 100-plus-year history. Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Psychology Warren F. “Spike” Jones Jr., who led the College of Arts and Sciences for 21 years before stepping down in 1992, is one such memorable person. Although he has been retired for just as many years as he served, Jones remains one of Georgia Southern’s most popular and inspirational figures.
When Psychology Professor Emeritus and Chair Emeritus Richard Rogers and his wife Ruth Ann (’81) (above) wanted to give back to Georgia Southern they wanted their gift to recognize the man they describe as “witty, polished and quick on his feet.”
“We wanted our endowment to honor Spike because he was connected to both of us at the University,” said Ruth Ann Rogers, who for many years was the executive assistant to former Georgia Southern President Nicholas Henry. “He was just the most wonderful person to be around and Spike made you feel better when he was around. He has a twinkle in his eye still and a great wit. We thought if the money we gave could go toward something special, then it should be used to honor him.”
Richard Rogers was a professor in the Department of Psychology and retired as its chair in 2005, after 35 years at Georgia Southern. He said Jones was his dean for his first 20 years as a faculty member and noted, “no one ran a meeting as well as Spike Jones.”
“I really admired the way he dealt with people and problems,” Richard said. “He was so genuinely willing to interact with faculty, with any faculty. What I liked about his administrative style was that he was so willing and so able to deal with individual problems and individual people as they came up rather than trying to make rules and regulations to cover every troublesome situation that might develop.” When Jones was dean, all of the departments that are now in the College of Science and Mathematics, and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, were in the College of Arts and Sciences. Under his deanship, the College shed some programs but expanded significantly by adding new degrees, new majors, new minors and graduate programs. “Keeping the school together and growing such a large college was quite the accomplishment,” said Richard.
The Rogers said their initial donation was not enough to create the endowment so they challenged Spike’s friends, supporters and former colleagues to contribute the remaining funds. Within months, they had raised enough for the first endowed scholarship, which will benefit a student this fall. The fund came as a surprise to Jones, who found out about it when he appeared at a reception in the Carol A. Carter Recital Hall last November. Many of the guests came from out of town to surprise him.
“The years that you served were the best of times,” Ruth Ann told Jones and the audience, which included Jones’ sister, brother, and retired administrators such as Nick Henry, who led Georgia Southern from 1987 to 1998, former Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Harrison Carter, and Dean Carl Gooding, who served in the College of Business Administration from 1986 to 2001.
“Many people don’t get an endowment until they are dead and buried. We wanted to do something so that Spike knew how much he was valued and appreciated while he was still on this earth,” Ruth Ann said. Jones still lives in Statesboro where he is active in several civic organizations and continues to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, where he works in the ReStore that bears his name. The Rogers said the Warren F. “Spike” Jones Endowment will not only provide financial assistance to scholars in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, it also honors a man who was dedicated to educating Georgia Southern students. – Sandra Bennett