By Tim Gross, '11
Whether he proposed changes to school administrators as a member of student government or saw the housing industry through tough economic times as a leading home builder, Robert R. Jones, ’58, always made sure to take care of the people around him.
“I felt a responsibility,” Jones said. “And I’ve really always felt that way with St. Bonaventure and all the people there. It’s a place in my heart.”
Jones serves as a senior officer for the National Association of Home Builders and owns a home-building business in Michigan, but he continues to serve his alma mater as a trustee emeritus. On the board of trustees from 1975 until 1998, he implemented the leadership he learned as an undergraduate. As a donor, along with his wife, Carole, he established two endowed scholarships to give opportunities to students looking for the experience he benefitted from half a century ago.
“When I graduated, there were not a lot of (personal) funds,” Jones said. “My family didn’t have a lot of money. They had little. But by the same token, they sacrificed; they did everything they could to make sure I got an education.”
After Jones earned his English degree with a minor in philosophy, he was drafted in the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. He was promoted to first lieutenant and honorably discharged at the end of his second year. With a fellow officer, he decided to become a home builder.
“I had no idea the difference between a 2x4 and a 2x8,” he said. “But we were builders.”
They learned the business from a man named Herman Frankel, and eventually Jones built up his own company. Jones looked back to the University to share the gifts he earned with a Bonaventure education.
“I owe the University that’s been so good to me,” Jones said. “How can I contribute, give back to the University, after all it’s given me?”
Aside from establishing the Howard J. and Mary H. Brown Endowed Scholarship and the Robert R. and Carole Lynn Jones Scholarship, Jones, the 1978 alumnus of the year, also contributes to the capital campaign. He and Carole made the largest undesignated gift to the campaign in 1988, and he earned the James L. Hayes Volunteer Award in 1992 for his work as Campaign Chair.
Serving others is a trait he learned at Bonaventure, when the friars on campus opened their doors to him.
“I was at school, and they had Franciscan friars on every floor,” he said. “If you had difficulties or problems and wanted to resolve something, you knocked on the friar’s door.”
The attitude from the friars’ generosity and the giving spirit from Bonaventure stayed with Jones. It led him to serve student government during his days as an undergrad, and it helped him translate that mentality into the business world.
“I really wanted to make a difference,” he said. “And that’s carried me on through my whole career.”
Jones’ career saw him find time to serve as an honorary co-chair for the Anniversary Campaign. The University recognized his service by awarding him a 150th Anniversary Medal. In 1999, he also received the St. Francis Medal, and his 23 years with the Board of Trustees – six as chairman – were honored when the Robert R. Jones Board of Trustees Room was dedicated to his name.
“I’ve been very blessed with all the opportunities I’ve been given,” Jones said.
Jones attributes those opportunities, and his success as a home builder, to the impact and influence of his time at St. Bonaventure.
“That phrase, ‘guiding light,’” he said. “The difference in my life and all of it together comes from the University.”