Re-Introducing President John E. Jones III

Kimberly Tyson ‘26, Guest Writer

Dickinson will inaugurate John E. Jones III ‘77 as its 30th president this fall. A member of the Alpha Chi Rho fraternity, Jones graduated from Dickinson College in 1977, after which he attended Dickinson School of Law (now Penn State Dickinson Law) where he graduated from in 1980. 

Since his graduation, Jones has remained active in the Dickinson community – he served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 2008 until his appointment as Interim President in 2021. His son, John Jones IV, ‘11 also attended Dickinson and was a member of The Dickinsonian. 

Before he was chosen for this office, Jones previously spent twenty years in a lifetime appointment as a judge on the U.S. District Court for Pennsylvania’s middle district, where he ruled on several notable Pennsylvania cases. 

One of these, Kitzmiller v. Dover, which Jones decided in 2005, had to do with the extent that religious education can be allowed in public schools. The Dover school district in York County had been teaching the concept of “Intelligent Design” in high school science classes, and Jones found the public-school curriculum to be unacceptably pro-religion to the extent that it violated the First Amendment.

Later, in 2014, Jones ruled on the case Whitewood v. Wolf, in which the plaintiffs argued that Pennsylvania’s contemporary laws against same-sex marriage violated their constitutional right to marry their chosen partners, as well as have their existing marriages – performed in other states – legally recognized in Pennsylvania. 

Jones ruled that it was unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania, stating that existing Pennsylvania laws at the time violated the due process and equal protection rights guaranteed to citizens by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Jones’s opinion stated, “all couples deserve equal dignity in the realm of civil marriage,” and the fact that “same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection.”

Despite his landmark rulings in the justice system, Jones found his position as a judge becoming “stale” and “maddeningly isolating,” particularly when COVID-19 social distancing restrictions came into effect. In contrast, once he took the position of Interim President, he found that he enjoys staying busy and having visible and frequent interactions with the student body and the Dickinson community. 

Since starting this position, he has worked hard to reevaluate the image of the school, and wants to emphasize the essential “world-class faculty” and “liberal arts core” of Dickinson  College, which he believes are two of its most important strengths. Jones has always been an advocate for the well-rounded benefits of a liberal arts education.