Frank G. Jones ’63 grew up attending Rice football games and riding his bicycle through the city streets that crossed campus. Frank’s time as a Rice undergraduate was a highlight of his formative years, and he’s made it a priority to give back to an institution that provided him with a top-tier education. Now, as the president of the Association of Rice Alumni (ARA), Frank is committed to raising the profile of this important group. Part of his plan includes celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the ARA.
What shaped your interest in working with the ARA?
My mother went to Rice, and both of my parents were regularly involved in activities at the university. It was natural for me to be involved in Rice even before I was a student. Rice has been a really important part of my life, and volunteering is a way to stay in touch with the school and friends and a way to give back to an institution that made such a difference in my life. I attended from 1959-1963, and that was before tuition was charged. When you get the quality of education you get at Rice, you feel an obligation to give back and allow those who come after you to enjoy the same experience.
How do volunteers help to achieve the goals of the ARA?
We can’t engage our community or work toward a common goal without volunteers. We have an excellent staff at Rice supporting the ARA, but we need active volunteers to provide input as to how we can best serve the school and other alumni. We need volunteers to build our profile, to be involved in the activities and to support the staff.
President Leebron has focused on Rice being a part of the Houston community. As a result our students are thinking about how to give back and how to help. When these kids graduate and join the ARA, that spirit of volunteerism will follow them.
The ARA wants to unite Owls behind the institution where they spent some of their most formative years, where they have real ties and real friendships and where they learned the things that got them started in life and in their careers.
You have called the ARA an exceptional community. What is the community like for you?
There are just over 60,000 members of the ARA, but you run into alumni wherever you go. I was on a subway in Paris several years ago when a young woman sitting across from me asked, “Is that a Rice ring?” Another time, while wearing a Rice hat, I ran into a fellow in London who had been a freshman when I was a senior at Rice. It’s a community that identifies with each other and that has mutual respect for each other. When you tell someone you went to Rice that means something to people.
What volunteer roles have helped connect you to other alumni and to the university?
Homecoming and Reunion are big events that bring classes together as volunteers. I’ve enjoyed working as a Rice Annual Fund volunteer to raise funds for the university. Each five year reunion is a big deal, and it’s quite special to have your class representative on the football field presenting a check — you feel like you are making a significant contribution to Rice. There is camaraderie in raising funds for the Annual Fund. You are engaging with your classmates to do something positive.
As we celebrate 100 years of the ARA, are there commonalities between Owls from 1919 to the present?
It seems to me that the Rice student body is unique in that they are not homogenous. They are all different types of people who come from different walks of life and backgrounds. Because we have colleges, rather than fraternities or sororities, you get to know a bunch of people with a lot of different life experiences. It’s an interesting place to be, and I don’t think that’s changed any from the time I was here.
What has changed is technology and the opportunities students have today — it’s really amazing. But it’s still very smart people working in an environment that encourages people to be smart, to be entrepreneurial and to be themselves.