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  • Keeping Up with the Joneses: a KU Education Is a Family Affair

Keeping Up with the Joneses: a KU Education Is a Family Affair

Generations of Joneses pursue their education at the University of Kansas.
Story by Joel Mathis

Jones, the principal at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary school in Kansas City, Missouri, completed all of the requirements for his Ed.D. in Educational Administration this fall and will formally receive his degree in December 2018. He participated in graduation ceremonies at Lawrence’s KU campus on May 13 — walking down “the hill” with his wife, Kim, who was also graduating. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing that day.

“It's really a nice feeling,” Jarius Jones said.

The family’s KU connections don’t stop there. Their daughter, Mija, is a senior, son Jarius II is a junior, and daughter, Olivia, just started as an Adidas Scholar.

Rock Chalk, right?

“Jarius and his family are true-blue Jayhawks,” said Misty Chandler, director of student services at KUEC. “It is an extra special feeling to celebrate the experience of graduation alongside a family member.”

For the Jones family, graduation was the culmination of a quarter-century of loving and learning together. Jarius and Kim met in 1993 when both were members of the KU Marching Band. The two fell in love, and got married on Labor Day 1996.

Life proceeded quickly. The pair started a family; Jarius earned his bachelor’s degree in education in 1999. He went on to earn a master’s in teaching at Pittsburg State University in 2003, through the Kansas Teaching Fellows Program, then started his doctoral studies at KUEC in 2007.

Returning to KU was natural, he said.

"I knew that KU, to me, was the No. 1 research school in the area,” he said. “I knew a graduate degree from KU meant you were taken through a rigorous course of study. There was a level of excellence I felt was unmatched, in this region, by any other university."

But Jones didn’t travel a straightforward path: His studies were delayed as his elderly parents became ill, requiring him to choose their care over academics. "The professors had mercy on me,” he said.

It was the example of his parents, Jarius Jones said, that encouraged him to keep going.

“My mother (Velma Jones) earned her bachelor's degree in foreign languages from Pittsburg State University,” he said. "She was a teacher. She went through the path my wife went through. She had children and stayed home. While she did that, she still loved teaching. We were told never to settle for mediocrity. If you got a B, you had to explain why you got the B. We knew anything below a B was not going to be received well."

Jarius Jones (in commencement cap and gown) celebrates his KU Bachelor of Science in Education graduation with his family in May 1999 in Lawrence, Kansas. From left: Wife Kim Jones holding their son Jarius Jones II and expecting their daughter Olivia, Jarius Jones holding their daughter Mija Jones, and Jarius’ mother Velma Jones. Behind Kim and Jarius is Jarius’ father Ted S. Jones. Jarius’ grandfather Olvin Burns and sister Karene Jones-Salaam, who earned her master’s degree in engineering management from KU, look on in the background.

When Jarius earned his master’s degree, Velma Jones decided to pursue her doctorate in education — a quest that was cut short by a stroke in 2004.

Jarius Jones said his mom told him to keep working at his own education. “It doesn't matter how long it takes, as long as you do it, you complete it, and you do it to the best of your ability,” she told him.

In the meantime, Jarius and Kim had finished having children. Kim got her associate degree in nursing from Kansas City Kansas Community College, then turned to KU for her bachelor’s.

Setting an example for her children was a major reason for returning to school, Kim Jones said. "We just feel like with four daughters and a son, that we need to set the example that a bachelor's degree is our goal for them,” she said.

The result? Twenty-five years after they met at KU, Jarius and Kim got to graduate together.

"It hasn't been an individual effort — it's been a family effort,” Kim Jones said. “It's been a sacrifice to do your work, come home, and pull out your laptop to do more work. It's hard work, but it can be done if you have support."

Her husband agreed.

"It means a lot to be a kid from Kansas City, Kan., Wyandotte County, the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ — it meant a lot to me to get my terminal degree to represent them,” he said.

He added:

"Some people pursue it for the title. I did it because this was a fulfillment of a dream that my mother, even my grandfather, dreamed of me completing. Although life took many twists and turns — adversities that were sometimes self-imposed — it meant I completed something in spite of what looked like being impossible. I wanted to show other African Americans, males and females, that we can, if given the right opportunity, the right resources, we can do some remarkable thing"

Lisa Browning, student services coordinator at KUEC, said Jarius brings that same passion to his own students. “Jarius believes in the power of education,” she said. “His dedication to his students has no end.”

The proof can be seen in the entire Jones family.

"We were able to walk down the hill together, one last time, 25 years after it all started,” Jarius said. “It was really special for us to be able to do."

Top photo: Kim and Jarius Jones, second and fourth from left respectively, stand with their five childrenafter the doctoral hooding ceremony on May 12, 2018, at the Lied Center in Lawrence, Kansas. From left first row: Victoria Jones, Kim Jones, Alexandria Jones, Jarius Jones, Mija Jones, Olivia Jones. Back row: Jarius Jones II. Jarius completed his work for his terminal degree on Aug. 21, 2018, the same day as his father’s birthday and what would have been his maternal grandfather’s 101st birthday. 

Learn more about the Ed.D. in Educational Administration: benefits, curriculum, admission information and more.