MC Graduate Dr. Dan Jones Selected as Ole Miss Chancellor
June 16, 2009Mississippi College alumnus Dr. Dan Jones, a former medical missionary in Korea, is a proven leader who takes on a new mission in July as chancellor at the University of Mississippi.
The vote by the state College Board was unanimous Monday after Jones wrapped up a marathon of interviews on the Oxford campus.
The 60-year-old Mississippi native moves up the ranks as the Ole Miss leader after serving as vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and its medical school dean.
Early next month, Dr. Jones will succeed popular Chancellor Robert Khayat, a former football star with the Rebels and ex-kicker with the NFL's Washington Redskins. During his visits with Ole Miss constituents, Jones made it clear that he's no Khayat clone.
"I'm no Robert Khayat. I'm not gonna try to be Robert Khayat," Jones was quoted as saying in a front-page "Clarion-Ledger" story Tuesday. (Khayat)'s got this great charm that I don't have."
But Jones brings strengths that the 70-year-old Khayat, a longtime law professor and administrator, admits he doesn't possess.
A native of Morton, who grew up in Vicksburg, Dan Jones knows medicine and is a national leader in the medical world. Jones is former president of the American Heart Association. He joined the UMC faculty in 1992 and has led UMC since 2003. Jones earned his medical degree from UMC and completed his residency training there before going into private practice in Laurel.
His wife, Lydia, is an MC graduate, too. The new first lady at Ole Miss has three MC education degrees. There are other MC connections. Dr. Jones served on the MC Board of Trustees and is a former national president of the MC Alumni Association.
Leaders at Baptist-affiliated Mississippi College commended the College Board's selection.
"Dr. Jones already exemplifies excellence as a medical doctor and an administrator,'' said President Lee Royce. "This new position is a fitting capstone to his career.'' The MC family welcomes the news, Royce added.
"It is an excellent choice. He's a proven leader in higher education," said business professor Lloyd Roberts, a former interim president at MC. "He will continue the excellent work of Chancellor Robert Khayat."
When he led MC for a year as interim president, Roberts, an Ole Miss graduate, worked closely with Jones, who then served on the Christian university's board of trustees. "He was an active participant as a trustee. He's a great guy."
Jones takes the reins at a university on the rise. Ole Miss hosted a presidential debate last summer that drew national and international media to the Oxford campus. The university was named on the "Forbes" list of America's Best Colleges. Led by new Coach Houston Nutt, the Rebels football team finished the 2008 season with a victory in the Cotton Bowl.
During his visit in Oxford, Jones said he hopes Ole Miss will "better the state" in such areas where it is lacking, such as healthcare and education. Ten miles apart, MC and UMC have enjoyed a strong partnership for decades. Many MC graduates leave the Clinton campus to become students in medical and dental schools at UMC.
MC School of Nursing Dean Mary Jean Padgett said "Dan will do an outstanding job. His experience at UMC and serving on the MC board is excellent for the task ahead. He has fine character, the knowledge and clear thinking."
A 1973 MC graduate, Padgett knew Jones and his wife, Lydia, when they were undergraduates at MC. "He sees the need for service. He definitely has challenges, but he's up to it. Dr. Jones is a good administrator."
Dr. Jones is that and more, says another MC leader.
"There is no question that Dan Jones is one of the top university administrators in the entire country,'' said Ron Howard, vice president for academic affairs. "Besides his many professional talents, Dr. Jones is a man of deep learning, profound human compassion, and sterling character.''
Speaking for many MC supporters, Howard said, "We are so very, very proud to claim Dan as an MC alumnus.''
Photo: Dr. Dan Jones