by Craig Layne
Former federal judge John E. Jones III '77, P'11, will be inaugurated as Dickinson College’s 30th president on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 10 a.m. in front of Old West on the John Dickinson Campus. The event will feature brief remarks from Jones and expected appearances by dignitaries, including former Pennsylvania governors Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker and representatives from colleges and universities from across the country.
Jones retired from a lifetime appointment as chief judge of the U.S. Middle District of Pennsylvania to become the college’s interim president in June 2021. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously in February 2022 to make him the 30th president in the college’s 239-year history. “This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Jones. “The inauguration will happen 20 years to the day from my investiture as a federal judge, so to say this is a special moment is an understatement. I am truly humbled to lead this extraordinary institution that is so dear to me.”
As president, Jones has launched Dickinson Forward, a multifaceted initiative to position Dickinson to excel in challenging times. As part of that effort, Jones announced The Campaign for Scholarships: Change a Life–Change the World. This campaign seeks to provide scholarships for any student who needs one. Jones also continues to lend his legal expertise as a source to national and regional media, providing analysis on constitutional matters and legal issues in the news, including Supreme Court rulings and judicial security.
Jones previously served as U.S. district judge of the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, a position to which he was appointed by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate in 2002. Jones went on to become chief judge in 2020. He presided over a number of high-profile cases, including the landmark case of Kitzmiller v. Dover School District, after which he held that it was unconstitutional to teach intelligent design within a public school science curriculum. He also resolved the matter of Whitewood v. Wolf by striking down as unconstitutional Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. Additionally, Jones co-chaired Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Ridge’s transition team and served as chair of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
He has received numerous accolades during his career. In 2006, Time named him as one of its Time 100 most influential people in the world. He was the recipient of the first John Marshall Judicial Independence Award given by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He also received the Geological Society of America’s President’s Medal and was inducted into the George Washington Spirit Society. An engaged alumnus and champion of the liberal arts, Jones was presented with an honorary doctorate in law and public policy from Dickinson College, which recognized him as one of the 25 most influential graduates in the college’s history. He also served as chair of Dickinson’s Board of Trustees.
Born and raised in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Jones is a graduate of Mercersburg Academy, Dickinson College and Penn State Dickinson Law. He and his wife, Beth, have two children, Meghan and John, a Dickinson College alumnus, class of 2011, and three grandchildren.
Published September 21, 2022