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UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek (left) presents Clay Jones (right) with the Accomplished Alumnus Award.
UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek (left) presents Clay Jones (right) with the Accomplished Alumnus Award.

KNOXVILLE – University of Tennessee, Knoxville, alumnus Clay Jones and his wife, Debbie, have donated $1 million to provide funding for the university’s student leadership program.

Jones, Rockwell Collins chairman, president, and chief executive officer, visited campus last week to discuss plans for the gift, which will fund the Jones Director of Leadership Programming in the student affairs division.

“I owe a big part of my success to the leadership roles I experienced while at UT,” Jones said. “I learned how to work with others and direct a team, how to manage my time, how to lead. I hope this program will enhance UT’s student leadership opportunities to give all students the experience I had.”

Funds from the new Jones Director of Leadership Programming Endowment will be allocated annually and will help expand current programming and encourage more students to participate in leadership activities on campus.

Jones received his bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, now the College of Arts and Sciences, in 1971. As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Student Government Association, Air Force ROTC and Student Ambassadors, among other organizations. He also was named a university Torchbearer, the highest honor an undergraduate student can receive. He and his wife also have provided significant support to the Torchbearer Scholarship Endowment.

“Providing programming and instruction for leadership is an essential part of the growth and development of students,” said Tim Rogers, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Clay and Debbie Jones have given the university a tremendous gift that will have a significant and lasting impact on our students and campus for years to come.”

Examples of current UT programming to be expanded with this gift include:

  • The Ignite Summit: A three-day leadership retreat for first-year students that shows them the social leadership opportunities across campus, while building a peer network for student success. The Jones’ gift will allow more students to attend the conference.
  • Emerging Leaders Program: A class offered to those interested in student life, government and community service. It provides a base foundation of leadership skills, attitudes, theories, applications and an appreciation for diversity. The class includes an exchange trip and community service project. More class offerings will be available for this program because of the endowment.

Upon graduation from UT Knoxville, Jones served as a U.S. Air Force pilot and flew F-15 jets in the late 1970s. After he completed his service, he joined Rockwell International in 1979 and eventually led the successful spinoff of Rockwell Collins, a company specializing in communication and aviation technology. Jones was named president and chief executive officer in 2001. He has served as chairman of the board since 2002.

Jones serves as a director for Unisys Corp. and John Deere Co. He also serves on the boards for several organizations, including the Henry B. Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa, the Aerospace Industry Association and United Way of East Central Iowa. He also is a member of the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

During his visit to Knoxville, Jones was presented with an Accomplished Alumnus Award. The program brings noteworthy alumni back to campus to honor their accomplishments and gives them an opportunity to share their stories, talents and career experiences with students and other alumni. The program is sponsored by the UT Knoxville Office of Alumni Affairs.

Jones and his family reside in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The gift is part of the university’s $1 billion fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Tennessee. The most ambitious effort in the university’s history, the campaign places UT among the ranks of the nation’s largest public and private institutions that have sought this level of private support.

The campaign secures private gifts through contributions, pledges and planned giving to advance the university’s strategic goals that include improving student access and success, research and economic development, outreach and globalization. More than 98 percent of all gifts are designated for a specific purpose or program, such as scholarships or endowed professorships, and help provide the vital resources to advance key initiatives.

C O N T A C T :

Beth Gladden (865-974-9008,