Texas A&M University-Commerce President Dr. Dan Jones died this morning, according to a release from the university. He was 63. The cause of death has not been released. Jones is survived by his wife, Jalinna, and his children, Aislinn and Allyson.
The university will close at noon today in honor of Jones.
Jones was hospitalized for an undisclosed illness on April 16, according to university staff. On April 25, Jones sent the following email to university faculty and staff:
Dear Lion Family,
First of all, on behalf of myself and the Jones family, please accept a profound “thank-you” for the many expressions of concern, prayers, and wishes for a speedy recovery. After being out last week to deal with a medical issue, I plan to be back on campus this week, even though the week will be punctuated by a Board of Regents meeting in College Station.
Stress makes everything worse, taking a toll on body, mind and spirit. We all know how stressful university life can be, for students, faculty, and staff alike, and I urge all of you who are dealing with stressful challenges in your life to get the rest and help you need. Even a Lion needs a helping paw from time to time.
Once again, thank you to all for making our university a special, caring, and all-embracing community.
Dan R. Jones
Jones had served as the university's president since 2008. Before that, Jones had been Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, where he served 2003-08. Additionally, Jones had been an administrator and instructor from 1985-2002 at University of Houston-Downtown, where he had also served as Professor of English. Before that, Jones had been an instructor at Casper College in Casper, Wyo., from 1982-85.
During Jones' tenure at A&M-Commerce, university enrollment increased dramatically, including topping the 10,000 mark in 2010. Enrollment for the 2015-16 academic year began at 12,302. Texas Governor Rick Perry recognized Jones' work in creating a competency-based degree program in 2013. The university created a Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in 2012. A&M-Commerce also opened a campus in Rockwall in 2012.
Many successful building projects also marked Jones' service at A&M-Commerce. The Sam Rayburn Student Center opened in 2009 and was expanded in 2014. The university's Music Building was opened in 2011.
Jones also oversaw a revival of the university's athletics programs and facilities. Most recently, Jones led an initiative to lower the cost of textbooks.
Jones received a B.A. in English from the University of Texas, where he graduated with highest honors and special honors, in 1975. Jones earned a B.J. in Magazine Journalism, with highest honors, from the University of Texas that same year. Jones earned an M.A. in English from Rice University in 1978 before completing an M.A. in American Studies from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1982 and a Ph.D. in American Studies, also from Iowa, in 1984.
Provost and Vice President Dr. Adolfo Benavides sent the following email to university faculty and staff this morning:
Dear Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion family,
It is with extreme sadness that I inform you that our leader, President Dr. Dan Jones, passed away early this morning.
We send our deepest thoughts and sympathies to the family of Dr. Jones.
Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp sent this message from the Texas A&M System: “Dan Jones was one of our great presidents. He had a vision for the future that was brilliant and courageous. We will make sure his plans become reality. We will miss him greatly.”
Our counseling center staff and resources are available to faculty, staff and students during normal working hours on a walk-in basis. After hours, anyone needing assistance may call UPD at 903-886-5868 to request a counselor. Faculty, staff, and students may also contact Adapt Mental Health Crisis Line and Mobile Crisis Teams at 866-260-8000. Faculty and staff may also contact the Deer Oak Employee Assistance Program at 888-993-7650 to speak with a counselor.
I kindly ask that faculty work with any students who might need special accommodations during final exams week.
During this difficult time let us pull together and find solace and support in each other.
According to the Jones Family, arrangements are pending and the family requests both privacy and prayers at this time.
Dr. Adolfo Benavides | Provost and Vice President
Hunt County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jennifer Reeves has ordered an autopsy to be performed on the body of Jones. Hunt County does not have a medical examiner's office of its own, but instead uses the services of the Dallas County Medical Examiner. There is no timeline for the results of the autopsy to be available, Reeves said.
This story has been edited throughout.