From an early age Will Jones, 43, was told, “You will be a college graduate.” Some may have taken that for granted, but for somebody like Jones who grew up in Kensee Hollow, Kentucky, the son of parents who dropped out of school, his mother in the eighth grade and father in the ninth grade, it was a life changing statement.
And it is part of what has inspired him to lead Bethany College as its 14th President. The Board of Directors announced his appointment as the College’s new President on Friday, May 13 at a campus forum.
“A school like Bethany College saved my life,” he said. “Bethany is a good fit for me and I am right for Bethany and Lindsborg. I am excited to engage Bethany College alumni in the lives of the Bethany students.”
His passion for higher education and his life’s journey have guided him throughout his career. In his most current role as Vice President for External Relations at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia, Jones has led record fundraising and enrollment growth. During his six-year tenure there he launched a branding and marketing campaign that won regional Emmy and Addy awards, grew the undergraduate population by 25 percent, and raised the alumni-giving rate by 58 percent.
He also led the effort in starting a Master’s program in Philanthropy and Development, one of only six such graduate programs in fundraising in the country. He led in the development of curriculum, helped recruit the faculty, and taught fundraising and marketing courses in the program. He also founded a national roundtable at LaGrange College that brings 20 chief advancement officers at independent colleges from across the country together to learn more about fundraising and marketing.
“It is with great institutional and personal pride that I congratulate Will Jones on being named the next president of Bethany College,” LaGrange College President Dan McAlexander said. “His creative intelligence, boundless enthusiasm and impeccable personal integrity will make him a great leader of the historic institution.”
His fundraising experience and success reaches beyond LaGrange. He led successful efforts at both Goshen College and at Berea College. His appeal to Bethany as its next President included more than only his fundraising background, according to Corey Peterson, new chair of the Bethany Board of Directors.
“We are excited to have Will, Amy, and their family join the Bethany and Lindsborg family,” Peterson said. “Will brings a proven ability to lead, especially in the important areas of fundraising and student enrollment. His skills, work ethic, faith, along with a transparent and servant leadership approach are exactly what we need as Bethany moves forward.”
The Bethany College Board of Directors began its search for President in November when it engaged the search firm AGB and consultant Richard Torgerson to help lead the search. The committee, consisted of board members, Dr. Marie Friedemann, Corey Peterson, Bob Mooney, Jim Martin, and Sean Patty; along with faculty members, Dr. Mark Lucas and Dr. Kristin Van Tassel; staff member, Vicki Cornett; and community member Ted Kessinger, participated in an exhaustive national search that produced a large pool of candidates. The committee assessed the candidates and invited semi-finalists to Wichita for the first round of interviews. Three candidates were ultimately brought to campus in May and one name was advanced to the board for approval.
“Will is an extraordinary leader with proven skills in fundraising and enrollment management that will help usher in a new era of growth and prosperity for our institution,” Patty, chair of the search committee, said.
Jones and his wife Amy, who has a master’s degree in special education from Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy, Massachusetts, have six children and are excited about becoming part of the Bethany and Lindsborg community. Jones and his family enjoy taking an active role in campus life by attending events and hosting students, faculty and staff to their home.
“I hope that in addition to wearing the title of President of Bethany College, I will also earn titles of mentor, colleague, confidant, counselor and friend,” he said.
Bethany College will host a picnic on Wednesday, May 18 at 5:30 p.m. in the Amphitheatre for the community to come and meet Jones and his family. The event is free and all are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets for the family-style picnic.