Don Jones retires
Presidential adviser built ties with minority firms
By Matt Kelly
Photo by Dan Addison
When Donald W. Jones retired on May 31, he left behind a legacy of service to the University, including increasing its work with minority vendors.
An adviser to four U.Va. presidents, Jones was the founding director of the Office of Minority Procurement Programs, established in 1990. More recently the office has focused on working with small businesses operated by women and minorities.
“In 1990, the University was not doing much with minority businesses,” said Jones, but by 1996, it had received a best practices award
from the state Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.
Jones, 66, attributes some of this success to U.Va.’s being the only state agency with a full-time director of minority procurement, a post he held from 1990 to 2005.
“I was able to direct my energies, and we were able to increase the amount of minority business,” he said.
The University has no set asides, where a percentage of a project’s budget would be reserved for minority contractors, Jones said, and minority contractors compete on a level playing field with other businesses.
“We had to make people aware that minorities get a fair shake like everyone else,” he said. “They had to earn their contracts.”
While he no longer directs the minority procurement office, Jones said he still receives many inquiries and petitions for advice outside the University.
“Don has always had a desire to assist small and disadvantaged firms do business with the University,” said Eric N. Denby, director of procurement services for the University. “He is interested in the betterment of individuals and companies.”
Denby described Jones as a “very religious man and his family means a lot to him.”
A native of North Carolina, Jones completed a Ph.D. in higher education administration at Ohio University in 1972 and came to U.Va. as an assistant to then-president Edgar F. Shannon Jr., who named him liaison with Virginia community colleges. He was also the University’s representative on the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an institutional self-assessment group. He has also been a presidential adviser on minority affairs, and was a full professor in the speech communications department.
“I came here planning to stay about three years,” Jones said. “Things went so well, I find myself still here.”
“Don has been a well-known member of the University family for many years,” said University President John T. Casteen III. “He has been involved in numerous administrative and instructional roles. He has devoted the most recent years of his career to the University’s minority procurement program, a priority of the highest proportions.”
“Don was one of those rare colleagues who was always there when you needed him,” said former President Robert M. O’Neil. “He was very helpful, would ask key questions, and would volunteer for difficult tasks with a good spirit and a willingness that made you think the task was manageable.”
When tapped to head the procurement office, Jones said he “hit the ground running. We had to have a strategic plan.” He took his familiarity with many of the University’s operations and did something new with it. “The University as a whole was not aware of minority firms. I went to various U.Va. schools, departments and purchasing units to explain what we were doing.”
While he had the support of the top administrators, he needed “to get the people with whom I was talking to buy into it, to let them know it was good for the University to do more purchasing from minority businesses,” he said.
In addition to getting U.Va. schools, departments and purchasing units on board, Jones also had to reach minority businesses to let them know that the University wanted to do business with them. One of the ways his office did this was through a program it developed called “How to Do Business with the University,” which still has periodic meetings for vendors.
While he has had opportunities to go elsewhere, Jones has stayed at U.Va. because he has faith in it.
“U.Va. has always been in the forefront in education,” he said. “The University has not been afraid of change and many others look to it for guidance and outstanding leadership.”