Just days after receiving an honorary degree from Cleveland State Community College, businessman Allan Jones has received an award for his contributions to the college.
Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan on Tuesday presented Jones with the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Philanthropy.
Cleveland State President Dr. Bill Seymour welcomed the guests to the campus and shared how Jones had recently received the college’s first-ever honorary degree after Jones spoke at the recent graduation.
Seymour then explained the goal for that day’s event was to further honor Jones for his contributions.
“If you’ve spent any time in Southeast Tennessee, you know about the generosity of
Allan Jones and his family,” Seymour said.
From 2011 until the end of the 2014-15 school year, Jones funded a local scholarship program called BradleyAchieves.
The scholarship program provided funding for “approximately” 620 students over the years, according to the college.
BradleyAchieves was the local version of the tnAchieves scholarship program, which operated in several Tennessee counties with help from local donors.
While the tnAchieves organization still operates, it is now facilitating the statewide Tennessee Promise scholarship program funded by Tennessee Lottery money. BradleyAchieves was replaced by Tennessee Promise, which welcomes its first students this fall.
Seymour mentioned he liked to refer to the BradleyAchieves scholarship recipients as “Allan’s kids.” Several alumni were in attendance to applaud Jones for his contributions.
Former BradleyAchieves scholarship recipient Kadie Baker, who graduated Saturday, then shared how her life was affected.
She explained how Jones is widely known for his philanthropic efforts, but perhaps his greatest impact has been helping students attend college.
“He has also shaped many lives, and one of those lives was mine,” Baker said.
The daughter of a single parent and the first in her family to attend college, Baker said the opportunities she received through the scholarship program made it possible to get closer to achieving her goals.
“Because of this scholarship, I didn’t have to worry about how to pay my tuition,” Baker said. “I was really focused on my grades and school so I could graduate from Cleveland State with honors.”
She now serves as a mentor through tnAchieves to help other first-time students navigate the process of attending college.
This fall, she plans to attend Lee University to earn a bachelor’s degree in English, so she can become a teacher and “impact the lives of children.”
“Thank you so much for allowing me and other Bradley County students to follow our dreams and to reach our full potential,” Baker concluded.
After Baker spoke, she and Jones shared a heartfelt hug.
Morgan then took to the stage to present Jones with the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Philanthropy.
The chancellor praised Jones’ efforts to promote and fund education and for “singlehandedly” funding BradleyAchieves from 2011 until the introduction of Tennessee Promise.
He said such efforts to provide college scholarship opportunities later led to the state adopting Tennessee Promise so students statewide could benefit.
“It was because of Allan and folks like Allan that the program has been so incredibly successful,” Morgan said.
He also noted that, including the W.A. Jones scholarship at Cleveland State, Jones has contributed more than $700,000, “with many pledges still forthcoming.”
Morgan then went on to list several of Jones’ philanthropic efforts over the years.
Those included him giving $1.3 million for the Jones Wrestling Center at Cleveland High School, “the lead gift” for a wrestling center at Bradley Central High School, funding for the Virgil F. Carmichael addition to the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library and funding for the Pangle Hall music venue at Lee University.
Morgan added Jones has also supported causes in other parts of the state, with one being funding the $4 million Allan Jones Aquatic Center at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
As a businessman, Morgan said one of Jones’ “most notable contributions” to his community was purchasing local clothing manufacturer Hardwick Clothes last year, as the purchase “literally saved hundreds of jobs in this region.”
“There is little doubt that Allan Jones is committed to this community, he’s committed to education and he’s committed to our community college,” Morgan said. “There’s also little doubt that, out of all the folks who could have received this award, he’s an excellent and deserving candidate.”
Jones accepted the award, thanking those who were responsible for him receiving it and those who were there to celebrate it with him.
He joked that he had been trying to add up in his head just how much he had given away. However, Jones described BradleyAchieves as being his “proudest” contribution.
Jones shared a story of a night in 1964 when his father, William A. Jones, was leaving for a work commitment.
The younger Jones asked why his father was leaving the house, and his father said he was trying to help Cleveland get a community college.
At the time, the elder Jones was the president of the local chamber of commerce, and Athens and Dayton were also vying to be the location of the next college.
“I never dreamed I’d be standing here at Cleveland State for something my dad had worked so hard to get and to realize that I am not the first person to invent this,” Jones said.
He said he decided to support scholarships to attend Cleveland State as both a way to honor his father’s legacy and to help students in the community he grew up in attend college.
“It’s probably been my greatest pleasure of the things we’ve given away,” Jones said.
The award he received is given away by the TBR on an occasional basis to honor those who have gone above and beyond in supporting one of its community colleges or universities.
It does not present a certain number of the awards each year. Rather, Morgan said the TBR evaluates the nominations as they are submitted by its community colleges and universities, and Jones was found deserving when Cleveland State nominated him this year.
“He clearly is a person who definitely deserves that recognition,” Morgan said. “When you really look at it, it’s incredible what he has done for not only Cleveland but for the University of Tennessee system, for this community and more importantly for the people who live in this community.”
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