Couple embraces ‘pay forward’ mantra through scholarship fund
Steve Jones ’72 and Diane Jones ’72 are firm believers in the power of 'paying forward.' The memorable phrase made timeless by legendary coach Woody Hayes is even emblazoned on the front license plate of one of their cars.
Steve and Diane met in a class as undergraduates. Steve, a zoology major, graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences; Diane earned her degree in animal sciences from the College of Agriculture and Home Economics. (Today, the Department of Animal Sciences is housed within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.) They hold fond memories of their time at the university and appreciate the opportunities their degrees afforded them.
For those and many other reasons, the couple decided in 2017 to establish the Steve and Diane Jones Endowed Scholarship Fund, which provides need-based scholarships for Ohio undergraduates majoring in natural and mathematical sciences or those pursuing studies in speech pathology. The STEM-focused scholarship is a way for Steve to give back to the field that enabled his successful career in life sciences, where he retired from Laboratory Corporation of America.
The speech-language portion of the fund recognizes the speech pathologists who supported Steve over the years as he worked to overcome a speech impediment.
“Ohio State is a land-grant university, which is important because they open up higher education to everyone,” Steve said. It’s wonderful that the university continues that tradition. That was my motivation.”
The Joneses have committed an additional $1.05 million to their existing scholarship over the next several years, as well as other resources from their estate, which will expand the fund’s level of financial support for students. They were impressed by President Kristina M. Johnson’s vision for Ohio State and her announcement of the Scarlet & Gray Advantage program, which she articulated during her November 2021 Investiture. The program will provide pathways for Ohio State students to earn their bachelor’s degree debt free.
Launching in fall 2022 with a small pilot and then growing over the coming decade, the program will commit participating students to take advantage of paid work opportunities and learning experiences focused on financial skills and career development. This concept resonated with the Joneses, who worked part-time jobs during their college years. Today, they value the soft skills they gained and believe in the benefits and life lessons that come from work, aside from the financial benefits.
Additionally, Steve and Diane were inspired to bolster their scholarships as part of the Scarlet & Gray Advantage program because of the available matching funds from the university, which will double the impact of the couple’s endowment.
Diane notes how Ohio State has always been a part of her life.
“My parents didn’t go to college, but Ohio State was a lifelong dream of mine,” she said. “Not just the career opportunities it provided me, but the good experiences Steve and I had there.”
The Joneses’ mantra of paying forward to support young Buckeyes began informally, long before they established their scholarship fund. The couple provided financial assistance to the children of friends and family so they could receive the same invaluable Ohio State experiences Steve and Diane did as undergraduates on the Columbus campus.
“Steve and Diane Jones exemplify the life-long success that a college degree — particularly a degree from Ohio State — can help individuals achieve, and they are clearly firm believers in helping others up the ladder of success,” President Johnson said. “I applaud them for their years of dedication in helping students obtain a college degree and am honored that they have chosen to continue that effort through their support of the Scarlet & Gray Advantage program. Countless lives will be changed for the better as a result of their generosity.”
“The College of Arts and Sciences is very grateful to Steve and Diane Jones for their generous gift in support of undergraduate scholarships,” said David G. Horn, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Thanks to Steve and Diane, future generations of our students will be able to pursue their passions in the liberal arts without anxiety about excessive student loan debt.”
As a student of history and someone who is fond of our university’s robust traditions, Steve sums up his and Diane’s commitment as follows:
“The fact is, we all benefit from things people did before us. Some people we knew, some people we’ll never know. You don’t show up on campus your first day and they built it all just for you. The sweat and tears of a lot of people throughout the years made Ohio State what it is today.”