The Era of Dan Jones

Ole Miss student Barnabas Kirui walked up to the microphone Monday afternoon to ask a question of then-preferred Chancellor candidate Dan Jones, announced at a press conference later this afternoon as the next Chancellor of Ole Miss, effective July 1.

"My name is Barnabas," he said, "and I have a question."

"Do you run track?" Jones asked him as he stood at the microphone about to ask his question.

"Yes," Kirui responded.

"You're famous," Jones said.

Kirui is an NCAA and SEC champion Ole Miss distance runner and steeplechase participant. That Jones immediately knew who he was as he spoke his name was noteworthy.

Had Jevan Snead or Eniel Polynice or Drew Pomeranz strolled up to the mic to quiz their potential new leader on some topic, you would have expected him to know who was asking that particular question.

Yet Jones, who accepted the recommendation by the Board of Trustees of Institutions of Higher Learning in Mississippi that he be the next Chancellor later Monday afternoon, knew Kirui and his accomplishments.

Jones, a native Mississippian, a graduate of Mississippi College and the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, said athletics are an integral part of Ole Miss.

"Who could imagine Ole Miss without strong athletics?" he said. "Successful universities have successful athletics programs. I am interested in it, and I love it."

Jones, who is currently serving as Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, has been on the faculty in Jackson since 1992. He's followed the Rebels and Lady Rebels closely.

"Having a strong athletics program is an important part of who we are and who we can become," Jones said. "There is great value in it. Academics and athletics can overlap to make the whole university stronger."

Jones mentioned that his athletics accomplishments paled in comparison to those of the current Chancellor. He also said that while Robert Khayat was an athlete who became a great academic leader, so he hopes to become even more athletically oriented since his career has been on the academic side.

He wants to grow university enrollment and asks for the assistance of alumni and friends of Ole Miss to do so. He said the conversation about capping enrollment years ago is no longer a part of any discussion. Growth is important.

Being in a vice-chancellor role, he understands the tough economic times of universities.

"Enrollment does drive financial success," he said.

Jones said the Medical Center has plans for more parking garages and that he will visit the situation on the Oxford campus to see what direction to go as far as more parking spaces.

He said he is extraordinarily appreciative of the current Chancellor but tells those who are listening that he will be his own man, and he says so with admiration and respect for his predecessor.

"I am not Robert Khayat," Dan Jones said.

Jones said the best way to market Ole Miss is to do just that – spread the word of what's here and what there is to offer.

"Our moms and dads taught us to not be too proud and boastful," he said. "When it comes to marketing, that's a pretty lousy approach."

And he feels that way across the board – academically, athletically, and anything else that concerns Ole Miss and what people think about her.

"This University not only has an opportunity to improve the status of all the citizens of Mississippi, but it has a responsibility to do so," he said. "This is a great place, and we need to build on the momentum that we have here now."

Jones, past national president of the American Heart Association, spent the day in sessions ranging from faculty and staff to students and alumni. At the end of the day, he had a new challenge as Chancellor of The University of Mississippi.

"I love Mississippi and I love Ole Miss," said Jones, joined on the podium by his wife of 38 years, Lydia. "With gratitude and joy I am pleased to accept this position. I ask for your support, advice, and encouragement.

"I'll simply do my best."

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