Chad Jones (’98 Marketing) found a way to “pay it forward” at a university that changed his life.
One of the first in his family to graduate college, Jones knows first hand the financial struggles families face when it comes time to send children on to higher education. He remembers well the discussion at his mother’s breakfast table when pencil was put to paper, and the tally came up a little short.
“I was fortunate to have people who rallied behind me,” he said. “I want students to be able to go to college without worrying about the financial means. TROY benefitted me, and I wanted to pay it forward.”
Now President and CEO of First Bank of Alabama based in Talladega, Jones is helping other TROY students by making a $300,000 legacy gift to establish the J. Chad Jones Leadership Scholarship. This scholarship will help future high school students in his bank’s service area, which currently serves Talladega, Calhoun, Clay, Randolph, and soon, Chilton counties.
“Chad Jones’ commitment to achievement is indicative of the ‘servant leader’ brand of leadership that is taught at Troy University. He is a model any Trojan could follow, and future students will benefit from his example,” said Chancellor Jack Hawkins, Jr.
When Jones made it to TROY, he immediately found his home away from home.
“From day one of coming onto campus for summer orientation, I met some friends who are still close to me today,” he said.
Jones found an opportunity in the TROY Greek life that impacted his life immensely.
“It was not what it was going to be like in the movies, where it was promoted as a party scene,” he said. “The fraternity was promoted to me as building leadership qualities within its members. I received a leadership scholarship, and I wanted to really build upon that.”
Build, he did. Through the mentorship of Jason Reeves, now mayor of the city of Troy, Jones became involved in the Interfraternity Council, becoming its president as well as president of his fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“I learned the way of the campus through Jason’s mentorship and through leadership qualities I was naturally picking up from others,” said Jones. “I met a lot of people who helped me.”
Relationship building and the ability to multi-task became somewhat of a skillset for Jones. In 1996, Jones, who was working at the Troy Country Club, had a chance to start working at Troy Bank and Trust, thanks to then President Gary Guthrie. By 1997, Jones was working full time at the bank, carrying a full-time academic load, while also being IFC president and his fraternity’s president.
Jones learned how to have a positive impact on others, something he learned from TROY faculty members.
He began as an accounting major, but the late Chuck Thompson, former TROY economics professor, quickly spotted a rare talent in the would-be accounting student: the ability to build relationships.
An avid golfer, along with his wife Tracy, Thompson had gotten to know Jones at the country club.
“He held me after class one day and asked me my major, then asked what in the world I was going to do with accounting. ‘You have no idea what accountants do. Come on with me, we’re going to change your major.’ That’s when I changed to marketing,” Jones said. “He helped guide me, and it was his conversation with Gary Guthrie that got me to that graduation date. He told Gary to encourage me to pay attention in his class.”
There were other professors, too, that impacted him along the way: Jean Laliberte, Steve Garrott and Robert Earl Stewart, among them.
“I wasn’t the best student, but I did get the concept. I think my gift was not on the academic side but in the relationship side through putting people together,” he said, noting a story from after his graduation when he had taken a banking job with First Union Bank in Savannah.
“I came back to see Chuck Thompson after being gone about a year or so. I busted into his class and said, ‘Hey, Chuck, I finally get it. I get what you said about supply and demand,” he said. “That was the good point about being at TROY. I had that sort of relationship with my professors. Troy professors cared about you and saw things in you that you didn’t see in yourself.”
That may be at the very root of Jones’ desire to steer at least a few students to the TROY experience.
“Students need to understand that there’s hope. You can come from a single-parent family, or under-privileged family and be the first to graduate. Taking the step to obtain your degree is one of the ‘best first choices’ you make because it will change the trajectory of your life,” he said. “I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t made the decision to go to college. My mom was a postal clerk, and my dad was a pole climber for Alabama Power. I wanted something different for myself and they wanted something different for me as well.”
His advice to students is even if you are shy, get involved and show your personality.
“I always thought of myself as shy until I got to TROY, and then it was like I was reborn,” he said. “Students need to understand they have the opportunity to be ‘first’ in whatever they want to try.”
“It was a pleasure to work with Chad and assist him with his legacy gift,” said Becky Watson, Associate Vice Chancellor for Development. “TROY is truly proud of the wonderful leader that Chad has become and how he exhibits that leadership daily in his career, community and as a role model for his children. From our first meeting, he shared with me how TROY influenced his life, and now he is giving back through a legacy gift so that others will have that same opportunity. It is a wonderful testament to his character.”
To learn more about how you can establish a legacy gift, please contact Winton Smith or Becky Watson at 334-670-3608.