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Leader of a ‘magical place’Published November 3, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Henderson State University President Glendell Jones, wearing the medallions representing his presidency, addresses the audience during his investiture ceremony Tuesday in Arkadelphia. The school’s 17th president said professors must find new methods to teach today’s students, and Jones challenged students to step up with their best efforts. Among those attending the ceremony were Gov. Mike Beebe and representatives from 62 universities.
“I love working here,” Glendell Jones, president of Henderson State University, told the audience at his investiture as president on Tuesday. “This campus is a place where magical things can happen every day. It can be physics students building their own version of a Segway and riding it around campus; the marching band playing as they cross the campus; or students serving their community as they did in the recent Reddie to Serve Day, when the students came, it rained, they stayed, and they worked, helping citizens of Arkadelphia.”
The investiture, held more than 16 months after President Jones took up the top job at the university, was defined as the “formal ceremony conferring the authority and symbols of the high office.” The academic event, with its origins dating back to the Middle Ages, “celebrates a new era of commitment to the pursuit of knowledge on the HSU campus in Arkadelphia.”
Gov. Mike Beebe attended the event, along with delegates from 62 other universities, from Ouachita Baptist University across the street to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Dressed in their colorful academic robes, the representatives and the faculty entered the auditorium of Arkansas Hall as the HSU Chamber Orchestra played the Academic Festival Overture by Brahms. They were joined in the auditorium by the school’s board of trustees, staff, students, alumni, community supporters and friends and family of the president.
In welcoming the audience, Bill Wright, chairman of the HSU board of trustees, said the university is now led by an alumnus “prepared to take Henderson to a new level.”
Another welcome from Phillip Turner, president of the university’s student government association, drew laughter and applause when he complimented Jones on his academic achievements.
“After graduation from Henderson, he received a degree in law from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville,” Turner said. “He went on to achieve a [Master of Laws degree], which is not only the highest degree in the profession, but he did it in the most complex and boring speciality — tax law.”
The student said Jones has successfully connected with students “by telling stories and anecdotes.” Turner said the university president is considered “a beloved ally to the members of the student government, especially when he brings pizza to a meeting.”
The welcome ended with Turner turning serious.
“He is an administrator who is dedicated to the student, a devoted teacher,” Turner said. “Together, there is no limit to where we can go.”
During his remarks to the audience, Gov. Beebe called Turner back to the podium and praised the student’s comments about Jones.
“I think we could all sit down and shut up after his remarks,” the governor said.
Pulling Turner to his side, Beebe said that he was introducing him as “the 18th president of HSU.” Jones is the 17th president to lead Henderson State.
The governor described Jones as a first-generation college student whose parents knew that the key to a better life was higher education.
He said there are plenty of supporters for K-12 education, but that higher education has fewer supporters. Yet, he added that the jobs and businesses of tomorrow require higher-education degrees.
“For every San Walton,” Beebe said, “there are 100 people out there expanding and developing ideas spawned on college campuses.”
Jones, the governor said, understood that being a president of the university is not a powerful position, but is a job rooted in service.
“You are the leader, but not the boss,” he told Jones. “But you understand about service and are well prepared to carry on that responsibility and to make us all proud.”
After the investiture ceremony, when Wright attached a chain of university medallions to Jones’ academic robes as a symbol of his office, the HSU president agreed with the governor’s appraisal of his job.
“I have no power,” Jones said. “I may have some authority, but no power. I need everyone here to help achieve the goals of the university.”
Jones opened his report on a personal note.
“I thank the campus community and those in Arkadelphia for the welcome I and my family have received,” he said, “and especially how they extended a hand to our children. The invitations to swim parties and soccer games made us feel welcome.”
Jones also expressed an emotional thanks to his wife, Sharon; daughter, Camille; and son, Cameron.
“I know it has not been easy to share me with so many people,” Jones said. “It is not easy to live in a fishbowl, and I know it is hard for me to be away for so long. I love you.”
The university president also thanked his parents for their support and for their insistence on his going to college.
“Thanks, Mom, for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” he said. “And my father, thank you for challenging me to live a life better than your own.”
Jones, a native of Blytheville, was recruited by Henderson to join the Reddie football team.
However, before Jones could establish himself as an offensive tackle, he was injured, tearing every muscle, ligament and the socket in his knee.
Jones said coach Ralph “Sporty” Carpenter kept him in school.
“One day I was on the phone with Mom, and I said I wanted to come home. I said I felt like I was about to die,” he said. “The coach took the phone and said, ‘Mrs. Jones, he can die here just as well.’ If I had left, I am pretty sure I would have never gotten back to college.”
In his remarks on Tuesday, Jones thanked his faculty members who taught him as an undergraduate at Henderson.
“They said I needed to be well-rounded,” he said. “I took classes that were not always about business (his major), but they were all about life. Henderson transformed me, made me stretch to outside my comfort zone and achieve the life I have today.”
Turning to today’s HSU students, Jones said they come better prepared for school and with generally more resources than ever before, but he said they also need more.
“They and their parents expect a greater return on their investment in us,” he said. “We must alter our approach to teaching without diminishing the quality of our educational standards. We have the opportunity here to change the world.”
The president said Henderson will always be a student-centered university.
“Henderson is committed to students; they will always come first,” Jones said. “And to the students, you need to step up and step forward. My advice to you is, go for it, go for it — give your best effort each day, and don’t worry about failure. You will fail somewhere — we all do. Just keep going.”
Jones told his faculty that the they must reinvent education at the school.
“The system is not designed for the student today,” he said. “We cannot bind ourselves to traditions that label and limit success. All belong here and are welcome at Henderson State University.
Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or email@example.com.