Ross Jones, close aide and adviser to six of the university's 13 presidents, has announced he will retire June 30 after 37 years of service to his alma mater.
Jones, vice president and secretary, has been known for decades both as a keeper of institutional memory and tradition, and as a force for progressive change at Hopkins, colleagues said. His influence has reached far beyond the president's office, touching faculty, staff and students in all divisions, as well as trustees, alumni, donors and the community.
"Ross Jones is quintessential Johns Hopkins," President William R. Brody said. "No one knows Hopkins like Ross. Working in his quiet, understated way, he is tremendously skilled at putting others at ease and finding ways to solve difficult problems."
At various times, Jones has managed the university's public affairs, development and alumni relations efforts, juggling those responsibilities with his work in the Office of the Board of Trustees, which he has headed since 1963.
"He is our resident historian, he keeps in touch with literally thousands of alumni and supporters of Hopkins, and he has been the driving force in the university's relations with the Greater Homewood community," Brody said. "It won't be possible to replace Ross with any one person, or any number of people for that matter."
Jones will be succeeded in one of his current roles, as executive assistant to the president, by Jerome D. Schnydman, another longtime Hopkins veteran, who is now executive director of alumni relations. Schnydman will move to Brody's office Feb. 1 to begin working with Jones. In May, Brody will recommend to the trustees that Schnydman also succeed Jones as secretary of the university, responsible for the trustees office.
Jones, 66, a 1953 Hopkins graduate, returned to the university in 1961 as assistant to President Milton S. Eisenhower. He was elected secretary of the board of trustees two years later, secretary of the university in 1965 and vice president in 1968. His strong interest in university-community relations led to the creation of the Greater Homewood Community Corp. in the 1960s and, in the past several years, to the Greater Homewood Renaissance revitalization effort.
Between Eisenhower and Brody, Jones worked for Presidents Lincoln Gordon, Steven Muller, William C. Richardson and Daniel Nathans, and with the past five chairs of the university's board of trustees.
"He embodies everything good about Hopkins: creativity, energy, optimism," said Richardson, president from 1990 to 1995. Richardson cited Jones' "tremendous insight into the way Hopkins is most effective as an institution, supporting faculty and students to do their very best with as little bureaucracy as possible."
Jones has also, among many community commitments, been chairman of the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission and president of the Maryland Zoological Society. In 1986, working with a fellow Hopkins graduate, he introduced lacrosse to university students in Japan, where today there are nearly 30,000 players in the men's and women's versions of the game.
Jones said his retirement is less a departure from Hopkins than a transition to another new role at the university. He will work part-time in the Office of Development, helping to keep donors informed on what is happening at Hopkins and how their gifts to the university are being used.
"It is difficult to sum up nearly 37 years of an intimate association with one of the world's great universities," Jones said, "nearly 50 years if I go back to my days as a freshman at Homewood in 1949."
He called it a "rare privilege" to be involved in one of the university's greatest periods of growth, both in physical terms and in worldwide prestige. "It has all been made possible by the people who really are Johns Hopkins: the students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends," Jones said. "The enormous talent they bring to this university and the dedication and commitment to Hopkins they display year in and year out have always made me exceedingly proud, and grateful to have had the opportunity of working with them."
Schnydman, a 1967 Hopkins graduate and two-time lacrosse all-American, has headed the Hopkins Alumni Relations Office since 1989, where, said Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Robert Lindgren, he has done "a superb job."
"The great news is that he's staying on, serving Hopkins in another important capacity," Lindgren said.
Prior to joining the Alumni Office, Schnydman served 11 years as director of undergraduate admissions at Homewood.
"Over a period of more than 30 years, Jerry has gained a broad understanding of Johns Hopkins, our students, faculty and staff, and his work with alumni has put him in touch with hundreds of Johns Hopkins people throughout this country and around the world," Brody said in a letter to deans and vice presidents announcing Schnydman's appointment.
"He has demonstrated great devotion and commitment to the university and that, coupled with his energy, creativity and enthusiasm, will serve him, and me, well in his new position," Brody said.