John E. Jones III ’77 P’11 Named 30th President of Dickinson College

John E. Jones III ’77 P ’11, seven months after his selection as Interim President of Dickinson College, has been named the 30th president of the college. He was elected unanimously by the Board of Trustees to lead the college for the next five years, a process that would otherwise have taken a significant amount of time to decide.

Jones, a member of the Class of 1977, took the office of Interim President at his alma mater after President Margee Ensign stepped down to become the President of American University of Nigeria.

Jones was initially hesitant about taking the position due to having never been a college president before and his lifetime appointment to the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania. However, he said “…one of the things I learned at Dickinson was to be bold, and to not duck a challenge and to grasp opportunities that come along in your life, and I concluded that never in my life, if I turned this down, would I have the opportunity to go back to my alma mater.”

In his time as president, Jones has overseen the Dickinson Forward initiative, which he stated “…so, I thought, ‘There are some things I can do pretty quickly to make the place better and to show that I have a firm hand on this and can operate for the betterment of the college,’ and that was the Dickinson Forward program. 

He also formed a task force for a more balanced college budget, and started Dickinson’s “most ambitious scholarship fundraising campaign ever,” according to the President’s Office. He has also worked with the Dickinson community through the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts.

Jones previously served as Chief Judge of the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, a position he was appointed to by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate in 2002. Jones stated that his time on the bench gave him leadership experience and that it allowed him to “…listen to people, to allow debate to take place in front of you, gather all the information that you can, to be as fair to everybody and their positions as you can be, and ultimately to make a call.”

He presided over cases that drew national attention during his time on the bench, including Whitewood v. Wolf (2014) where it was ruled that Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, one year before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges. Another case was Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005) where it was ruled that the teaching of intelligent design in public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment due to the idea’s “religious antecedents” and its pseudoscientific claims.

While Jones’s judicial background plays a significant role in his work as a college president, his history with Dickinson College itself exceeds beyond his service as a board member. “Dickinsonians are self-prefacing. We are able to laugh at ourselves and are modest in what we do. What I’ve seen in years is that Dickinson produces leaders.”

When it comes to the student population, they were a big reason Jones took the position, saying “My greatest days since I’ve started here have been interacting with all of you, with students. When I can walk out of here on a nice day… and see groups of students and walk with them and spend a little time with them, that demonstrates to me why I took my job.”

Jones’ interactions with the student body have positively impacted his own adjustment to the Dickinson community, and the student body’s reaction similarly follows. Angela Abinales ’25, the President of the Class of 2025 said, “as First-Year Class President, I have had the opportunity to work closely with… President Jones. I am thankful that during a time of unrest and uncertainty, President Jones is able to take on a position that requires such leadership skills and initiative. I have been fortunate to work with President Jones to help take steps towards bettering the Dickinson College experience as a whole.”

Jones’s position as President of Dickinson College will be on the standard five year contract, as opposed to his previous two year contract as Interim President.