Last Tuesday, in a letter to the members and alumni of the honors college, Leslie Sargent Jones, the long-running director of the program, announced that she was stepping down from her position.
This resignation comes amidst the news that the Faculty Senate’s unanimous vote to convert the honors program into a full college, as planned since 2006, had been refused by the administration.
Jones, who had recently been elected to the Board of Directors of the National Collegiate Honors Council, opted to resign instead of representing what she felt to be a deception on the part of Appalachian State.
Her resignation was first sent among the honors students and alumni, then shared on the American Association of University Professors Appalachian Facebook page and by many others. It has caused a large outcry, with many standing in support of Jones.
The sheer amount of support for Jones from current students and alumni is astounding, but entirely deserved due not only to the work and effort she has put in to build the program, but also the dedication she has to her students.
Her drive to help students succeed is evident upon first meeting her. Corbin Ester, an Appalachian honors college alumnus, said in an email statement that he knew “immediately after meeting her” that he would choose the Appalachian State Honors College.
Ester, who is currently a research fellow at the National Cancer Institute, had also received a full ride to UNC Chapel Hill and a scholarship to Wake Forest University.
A common story among her students is that Jones was always in their corner, pushing them to be better.
Alexandra Dezii, an honors alumna and current first year at the Virginia College of Osteopathy, described Jones as “being there every step of the way” in an email statement.
Dezii remembers a time that Jones made her rewrite a paper 12 times, but she says that when she was finished with the paper it “was better than I knew I was capable of writing.”
Meeting Jones in person, it is easy to see why her students adore her. She exudes a warmth and openness that draws people in. Eloquent and intelligent, with eyes that seem to see right through a person, it is plain that her reputation is well-deserved.
“Jones’ presence could fill a room and make a group of newly accepted college freshman seriously consider their academic futures and goals in a way no other force at ASU could,” Brian Clee, a doctoral student at NC State, said. “It wasn’t so much that she demanded scholarship from us, but rather we wanted to excel academically because of her.”
Jones says that she agreed to come on as director of the honors program because she was excited about the vision the provost at the time had of an honors college that was “competitive with any honors college in the country, that would be able to attract the best students in the country that would be able to get Appalachian recognition nationwide.”
Unfortunately, as things stand, this vision may not come about. Due to system-wide budget cuts at UNC, the program’s budget is half of what it was five years ago, Jones said.
The cuts, in addition to the administration constantly saying “next year” to her petition to convert the program into a college, made Jones feel that she could no longer continue as director.
The loss of Jones from the honors program is a devastating blow for the university.
There aren’t many who could have done as much for the program, or gone as far as she did for her students.
So thank you Leslie Jones, thank you for all that you’ve done for your students and for Appalachian as a whole.
Russell, a freshman Communications major from Charlotte, is an opinion writer.