NASA’s Jones tells UAPB graduates to leave a legacy
This is the second of 14 entries in a series highlighting Jefferson County high school and college graduates.
Terms like “legacy”, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/may/08/class-of-2022-nasas-jones-tells-uapb-graduates-to/”UAPB” and “HBCU” have different meanings in the dictionary of Dr. Ruth D. Jones.
“Carve your name on hearts, not on tombstones,” she told the 288 University of Arkansas graduates at Pine Bluff’s spring re-entry Saturday morning. “A legacy is etched in the minds of others and the stories they share about you. Today is the start of your new chapter in your life. You are the COO of your life, not your mother, your father [or] your grandmother. You are the COO and you are in control of your life right now. So what will be your legacy? What do you want people to say about you? What stories would you like them to share about you for the rest of your life?”
Jones defined legacy as “letting experience guide you and change you”. The 1994 UAPB graduate, who is now associate director of the Human Exploration Development and Operations Office at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, dropped some wisdom and new acronym meanings on a sunny Saturday at Simmons Bank Field in Golden Lion Stadium.
For example, UAPB stands for “university always produces brilliance,” and HBCU — which historically stands for black colleges and universities — can also stand for “helping black people compete universally,” which Jones challenged graduates to do while nominating HBCU graduates.
A native of Helena-West Helena, Jones first majored in accounting at UAPB, but was encouraged by a professor to switch to physics. The professor didn’t tell her, she says, that there was no physics major on campus at the time.
After becoming the first woman to earn a degree in physics at UAPB, Jones became the second African-American woman in Alabama to receive a doctorate. in Physics from Alabama A&M University in Huntsville. These days, she leads the project management and systems engineering processes in her Huntsville office and is considered one of NASA’s Modern Figures, an honor inspired by the movie “Hidden Figures.”
Thirty-one of the 288 graduates earned a master’s degree. Six of the graduates received the Chancellor’s Medallion as the top graduates of their respective school or division of the university (there was a two-way tie in the School of Arts and Sciences):
• Allison Malone of Memphis, School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Humanities, 3.993 GPA in Agricultural Engineering.
• Cristalyn Allmond of Pine Bluff, School of Arts and Sciences, 4.0 in Nursing.
• Janee Townsend of Little Rock, School of Arts and Sciences, 4.0 in Social Work.
• Haley Gomez of Eastvale, CA, School of Business and Management, 3,948 in Business Administration/Marketing.
• Denisha Bush of Lakeview, School of Education, 3,957 in Health and Physical Education/Recreation and Wellness.
• Syan Tyler of Holly Grove, University College, 3.763 in general studies.
Senior Class President Tyesha Fields of Pine Bluff and Student Government President Leon Jones III of Fayetteville won the Outstanding Achievement Awards for their leadership. Giving reflections to the students, Fields thanked his classmates for the resilience they showed during the 2021 winter storms that led to a campus-wide water freeze as well as the virtual learning amid covid-19 pandemic.
Jones addressed his message to the world:
“Know that our class has the courage, drive and determination to get what we want,” he said. “Watch out, people! We’re coming in strong, and I’m not sure you’re quite ready.”
Ten graduates of the UAPB Army Reserve Officers Training Corps were commissioned second lieutenants: Kayana Brown, Michael Gerwitz, Sade’ Hudson, Kaunecia McCoy, Amayia Rhodes, Andrea Riera, Djuan Williams, Zeyairia Williams, Fields and Townsend.
Lt. Col. Kevin Moyer was sworn in to the group for the final time as UAPB Professor of Military Science. Chancellor Laurence B. Alexander said another professor takes turns supporting ROTC.