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Volunteer Leaders

Clay Jones (‘71) attributes much of his success to his leadership development at UT.

March 01, 2019

After graduating from UT, Clay Jones served for eight years as a fighter pilot in the US Air Force. He then had a 34-year career with Rockwell International and Rockwell Collins Inc., an aviation electronics and communications equipment company. Jones served in the positions of chairman and CEO of the company for 12 years each.

Jones received his bachelor’s degree with honors in political science and was named a Torchbearer, the highest honor an undergraduate student can receive at the university. He was also involved with Phi Delta Theta, Student Government Association, and Reserve Officers Training Corps.

He continued his involvement after graduation, serving as president of UT’s Alumni Board of Directors and was named a recipient of UT’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.

In 2019, Clay and his wife, Debbie, have made a landmark gift in support of the university’s Center for Leadership and Service. Following their most recent gift, the Board of Trustees voted on March 1 to name the center in their honor.

Clay and Debbie Jones
Clay and Debbie Jones

The gift will enhance the programs and initiatives offered to students to help educate and engage them in meaningful leadership and service opportunities.

Some of the signature programs at the Clay and Debbie Jones Center for Leadership and Service include the VOLbreaks alternative break program, the Ignite program, Leadership Knoxville Scholars, Leadership and Service Ambassadors, and the Clifton M. Jones Student Leadership Conference.

“Clay and Debbie have always been leaders in supporting the development of our students and giving to the university,” said Interim Chancellor Wayne T. Davis. “Their gift will help give students opportunities to grow in their leadership and service skills and go on to make an impactful difference out in the world as Volunteers.”


Hours of Service


Services Valued at nearly
$17 Million

The Joneses established the Director of Leadership Programming Endowment in 2009, which is used to expand students’ leadership opportunities across campus. The pair also helped establish the Torchbearer 2000 Endowment, which supports students involved in activities and community service at the university.

Their new gift comes at a monumental time for the center. Six years after the center began to track service hours, students passed the 500,000-hour mark during the fall 2018 semester. As of February 2019, students have tracked more than 685,000 hours of service, with an estimated impact of $16,923,291 for the communities served.

UT 225th anniversaryThis story is part of the University of Tennessee’s 225th anniversary celebration. Volunteers light the way for others across Tennessee and throughout the world.

Learn more about UT’s 225th anniversary

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