April 04, 2012 EditionAlso in this issue...
Dr. Thomas Jones
Dr. Thomas Jones (left), selected as the sixth president of Williams Baptist College, shakes hands with the current president, Dr. Jerol Swaim, who will retire in June.
TD Photo ~ John Bland
Williams Baptist College announced Friday in a news conference the selection of its sixth president, Dr. Thomas O. Jones, who has been chosen to lead the four-year, liberal arts college at Walnut Ridge.
The Williams Board of Trustees voted Friday to make Jones the next president of the college. He was nominated for the post by WBC's presidential search committee.
"I think it's great to be back in Arkansas," Jones told those assembled for the announcement in front of the Swaim Administration Building. "We had always hoped that we could return to this place."
Jones also praised the current president, Dr. Jerol Swaim. "Nearly every building here has been newly built or renovated during his tenure," he said.
"Dr. Jones is an incredible communicator, a highly intelligent and perceptive leader and a wonderful Christian example. With his warm, personal manner and his strong support of the vision of WBC, the committee found him to be a perfect fit for the college," said Dana Kelley of Jonesboro, who chaired the search committee. Kelley is a Williams alumnus and a board member.
The new president will replace Dr. Jerol Swaim, who is retiring in June after 17 years at the helm of WBC and 48 years working at the college.
"I am extremely humbled to be chosen as the sixth president of WBC," said Jones. "To be asked to lead an institution with such a grand history that has done so much for the region and state is indeed an honor."
Jones, 56, is no stranger to Williams, having served at the college from 1994 to 2000 as vice president for institutional advancement. He has held the same title at Golden Gate Baptist Seminary in California for the past 12 years.
Kelley said that Jones' experience at Williams was just one of several assets in the eyes of the search committee.
"His previous service at WBC was a positive factor. But in the end, Dr. Jones emerged as the best candidate on his own merits and his experience at other places, as well. The fact that he is returning to Williams is just an added blessing, since he has many friends here who will welcome him back," said the search committee chair.
During his previous service at Williams, Jones was active in an array of community activities. He is a graduate of Leadership Lawrence County, and he chaired the planning committee for subsequent LLC classes. He also completed the Regional Leaders Program at Arkansas State University, and he is a past chair of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Lawrence County.
"Williams has always played a big part in the local history of northeast Arkansas. WBC will continue to look for more opportunities to provide leadership and resources to meet the spiritual, cultural, economic and social needs of the region," Jones said.
"Our most valuable involvement is through WBC graduates who permeate the educational systems, churches and marketplaces of the region," he added. "Through the leadership training they have experienced at Williams, they have the potential and have proven to be catalysts in the continuing development of the rural and urban communities in which they live and work."
The selection of Jones as WBC's next president was greeted warmly by Dr. Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention. Williams is owned and operated by the ABSC.
"Dr. Jones will be an asset not only to Williams Baptist College but to the entire Arkansas Baptist State Convention. With his commitment to scripture, his understanding of the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, and his obvious devotion to Baptist education, he is the right man to pick up Dr. Swaim's mantle and continue the great work being done at Williams," said Turner.
Jones earned his doctorate in education at Pepperdine University in California. He completed his bachelor's degree in communication arts at California State University, and he got his master's degree in communication from Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Texas.
He is married to Gail Jones, who is a librarian for a public library in California. They have two grown children. Jones is an Arkansas native, having lived most of his childhood in the state. His father, the late Don Jones, served as pastor of several Baptist churches in Arkansas, and his mother lives in Dermott.
Jones spoke in glowing terms of the man he will succeed as president. "There are few college presidents who have accomplished what Jerol Swaim has done. His determination, expertise and commitment are paralleled by very few. It is a cherished blessing to count as a friend one who so embodies what a Christian leader should be," he said.
And, for his part, Swaim said he is very pleased to pass the Williams presidency to someone of Jones' caliber. "I hold Tom Jones in the highest esteem both personally and professionally," Swaim said.
"Our time working together at WBC was a blessing for me, and I was delighted to learn that he is to be the next leader of this great institution. He is an outstanding choice."
Jones will assume office at Williams in July.
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