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Dr. Diane Jones retiring after 34 years

By Nick Phillips; Dustin Porter
Editor; Managing Editor

February 9, 2012

Photo by Mindy Hubbard
Dr. Diane Jones, vice chancellor of Student Affairs, speeaks to the crowd at the UNCP pageant on Feb. 2. Dr. Jones announced that she will retire at the end of spring after 34 years of service.
When Diane Oxendine graduated from Pembroke State College in 1968, she had no idea that her next 34 years would involve serving UNCP is such a high capacity.

A lot has changed since 1968. Pembroke State College is now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Diane Oxendine is now Dr. Diane O. Jones, vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

The campus has grown exponentially over her time.

There are a higher number of students, faculty, course offerings and buildings than when Dr. Jones first stepped back on campus in 1997

But one thing has remained constant since 1968: Dr. Jones' will to serve and put students first. Dr. Jones' journey will come to a close on June 30, when she will retire from the place she has called home for 34 years.

"I find the most enjoyment in working with the students," she said.

Over the last 34 years, the students and University have always been priority No. 1 for Dr. Jones.

"This institution has been a part of my life since I was an undergrad," she said, adding that it is "bittersweet" to be leaving a campus community that means so much to her.

Dr. Jones said she wanted to be around students but did not want to teach in a classroom, which is why she decided to turn to counseling.

After returning to UNCP in 1977 as Director of the Career Center, Dr. Jones was appointed to Director of Student Activities 12 years later in 1989. In 1993, she was appointed Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs before being named Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs in 1999.

"I never looked at this University as a stepping stone," Dr. Jones said.

"This is where I got my start, and through the years I've had the opportunity to move up. The opportunities were here. I never felt like I had to go somewhere else to fulfill anything," she added.

Dr. Jones has worked under and with six chancel- lors, beginning with her father-in-law English E. Jones. She also has seen former Chancellors Paul R. Givens, Joseph B. Oxendine, Allen C. Meadors, Charles R. Jenkins lead the University, as well as UNCP's current chancellor, Kyle R. Carter.

Dr. Jones noted James B. Chavis as one of the most influential people to her over the last 34 years, saying that he hired her, mentored her and encouraged her over the years.

"I owe alot to James B. Chavis," Dr. Jones said, referring to her predecessor in the role of student affairs.

"He mentored and groomed me into the woman I am today," she added.

Jones' influence

Dr. Jones will leave Pembroke having influenced a countless number of students, as well as members of the faculty and staff that she works with.

"Her number one goal is to make UNCP a better place for our students, and she makes every effort to assist them in any way possible," Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Lisa Schaeffer said.

Dr. Schaeffer added that her experience working with Dr. Jones has been "fabulous," and that everyone that Dr. Jones works with feeds off the energy she gives off.

"I love her leadership," Dr. Schaeffer said.

Dr. Schaeffer went on to say that UNCP has grown under Dr. Jones' leadership and has added new programs, departments and staff under her guidance.

In particular, Dr. Jones oversees the offices of Police and Public Safety; Student Health; Student Conduct; Housing and Residence Life; the Career Center; the Counseling and Testing Center; Student Involvement and Leadership; Civic and Community Engagement; the Office of Multicultural and Minority Affairs; Intramurals and the operation of the James B. Chavis University Center.

The Student Government Association and student publications the Aurochs literary magazine, the Indianhead yearbook, The Pine Needle student newspaper are all under Dr. Jones' watch as well.

Dr. Judith Curtis, asso- ciate professor in the Mass Communication Department and faulty adviser for The Pine Needle, had nothing but praise for Dr. Jones.

"Dr. Jones's steadfast support for The Pine Needle, and all our student publications, never wavered. She protected our independence, nurtured our growth and praised our accomplishments wholeheartedly," Dr. Curtis said.

Dr. Jones also oversees the Miss UNCP pageant, a program that has seen growth.


Dr. Jones has been the executive director of Miss UNCP (then Miss PSU) since 1989 and helped the pageant become one of the preliminaries for the Miss North Carolina pageant the same year.

The pageant crowned its 60th Miss UNCP on Feb. 2. "I have never viewed Miss UNCP as work because I have so much fun doing it," Dr. Jones said.

Dr. Jones continued saying Miss UNCP was like her "baby," and although she is sad to no longer be the executive director, she is confident in the Director for the University Center and Programs Cynthia Oxendine's ability to carry the "legacy" of Miss UNCP forward.

"Cynthia has been groomed for the job, and I know the pageant is in great hands," Dr. Jones said.

Dr. Jones has built a strong relationship with every Miss UNCP she has helped guide across the stage, but one woman in particular comes to mind.

"She (Dr. Jones) has been my role model and mentor as long as I have known her," said Renee Steele, current Director of Alumni Relations at UNCP and Miss PSU 1999.

Dr. Jones described her relationship with Steele as that of that of a mother and daughter.

"She told me she became the woman she is today because of what she learned through me," Dr. Jones said.

"It is because of those things that you really learn to appreciate your relationship with students," Dr. Jones said.

Steele said Dr. Jones' "grace, elegance and passion" fueled her to do her best at everything she did and helped her win Miss PSU.

"I've known her half my life, and her attitude towards students and her desire to see students succeed has remained constant," Steele said.

Dr. Jones said that the pageant has always been a fun part of her job, calling it a "highlight" of her year.

Peers' views

Throughout 34 years, Dr. Jones has built relationships with coworkers that have evolved into friendships.

Her continued passion for her job and students has been noted by her peers.

Dr. Charles R. Jenkins, has served as the University's provost and as a professor in the School of Education in addition to his stint as chancellor in 2009- 2010.

He has been at UNCP for over 40 years and has worked with Dr. Jones in various roles.

"I have the highest regard for her," Dr. Jenkins said, adding that he has valued her initiative to help students at UNCP through the years.

In his year as chancellor, Dr. Jenkins said that he had "upmost confidence" in Dr. Jones' ability to put students first, and that he was able to go to her as a friend and a colleague.

"All of us face retirement in our future, but, for me, Dr. Jones' retirement comes much too soon," Chancellor Kyle R. Carter said.

"She has become one of the most important members of my senior team, and I will sorely miss her competent leadership and management as well as her thoughtful counsel. Diane has served the university over three decades with style and grace," the chancellor continued.

"Her contributions to the university are many, but most will remember her leadership orientation characterized by loyalty, passion and sensitivity placing students at the center of all of her actions," Dr. Carter finished.

"A lesson I learned early in life was to surround yourself with good people," Dr. Jones said, adding that professionals she has worked with have turned into lasting friendships.

Dr. Jones' retirement surely does not end her involvement with the University.

She said that she will continue to visit campus for events at GPAC and dates like Pembroke Day.

"I am local and this (University) will always be a part of my life," she said.

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