Remembering Steve Jones ’76
Our community was shocked and saddened to learn of the death of long-time teacher and alum Stephen (Steve) Jones on May 6, just five months after his retirement from the school.
Mr. Jones moved to Ann Arbor at the age of 4 when his father, The Rev. Gordon Jones became the rector of St. Andrews Church in Ann Arbor. He first crossed the threshold of Greenhills School in September 1971 as a hesitant eighth grader. He previously recalled that the school took some getting used to not only because the dress code required that he wear a coat and tie, but also because the academic work was rigorous and the social scene full of distractions. In time, Mr. Jones found his groove and learned first-hand that at Greenhills he could shine in more than one area, something he later considered one of Greenhills’ traditional strengths.
“I always liked the fact that senior year, I was on a soccer team that went to the state semi-finals, but I also had a significant part in the play ‘Our Town’, and roles in forensics, the yearbook, and the student council,” he said, “I’m not sure I would’ve had the opportunity to feed both sides of my soul – the athletic and the artistic – in the same way at another school.”
After Greenhills, Mr. Jones graduated from Albion College and after working for Shawmut Bank in Boston for four years, he decided to pursue his teaching certificate from the University of Massachusetts.. Soon after, he found his way back to Greenhills where he said he was hired in 1988 to “work in the library and patrol halls at the end of the day.” Within two years, Mr. Jones took on the responsibility of teaching geography and civics, the beginning of a remarkable 31-year run as a teacher of social studies and history. Additionally, a dedicated seventh and eighth grade team leader, he masterfully coordinated the eighth grade week-long trip to Washington, D.C. since its inception and was instrumental in providing thousands of Greenhills students with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and rite of passage. The D.C. trip was a central part of what became known as “the Steve Jones Experience.”
It should be no surprise then, that when Greenhills held a memorial gathering to honor and remember Mr. Jones on May 25, more than 100 attendees filled an outdoor tent to capacity. As a nod to his love of baseball, we enjoyed ballpark franks and fixin’s as we watched a slideshow of photos of Mr. Jones from over the years.
“Steve wasn’t just a fine student, teacher, and human, he was a Greenhills graduate, a Greenhills teacher, and a Greenhills Gryphon,” said Head of School Peter Fayroian to attendees “He loved his students, his colleagues, and his school, and his students, colleagues, and school loved him in return.”
Students, alums, friends, and former and current faculty, including Luanne Booth, Chris Gleason, Ben Cohen, Gary Lehman, Barb Rocci, Julie Smith, and Steve Oestreich shared the stories and fond remembrances of their former colleague.
Others shared their thoughts in notes directly to the school.
“From grade school through graduate school, Mr. Jones was one of the very best teachers I ever had,” wrote Kiff Hamp ‘04. “In fact, in addition to his status, in my book, as one of my favorite and most influential teachers, I would also count him as one of the funniest and most charismatic people I have ever known.
“You simply wanted to be around him, talk to him, and learn from him. Mr. Jones loved Greenhills and his students, and we loved him right back. While he will certainly be missed, the impact he had on decades of students will not soon be forgotten.”
While his considerable attributes were evident as a teacher, Mr. Jones also made a lasting impression on his Greenhills classmates. “My overriding recollection of my Greenhills classmate Steve Jones is how passionate and upbeat he was,” recalled John Greeno ‘76 “Steve cared deeply – about his school, classmates, students, and social issues. I suppose he wore his heart on his sleeve, something I could relate to. He was informed, a student of issues. He was also unfailingly nice to all of us, and a reliably jovial presence in our class. It made me happy to know that Steve continued to be a part of the Greenhills family, passing along his enthusiasm, wit, and commitment to social justice to future generations.”
In honor of Mr. Jones’s love for the theater, and in particular, the play Our Town, friend, and former classmate Kittie Galan ‘76 quoted the play’s character Emily in memorializing her former friend and classmate.
“It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another…Oh, Earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? -every, every minute?”
Kittie responded, “No, we still do not. But our Earth, our town was a bit more wonderful with Stephen Jones in it. Goodbye, friend.”
Greenhills plans to name a classroom in Mr. Jones’s honor. His family has asked that any charitable contributions be made to the Annual Fund for Greenhills, which supports a range of programs, including his beloved annual eighth grade trip to Washington, D.C. You may donate online or via check with Annual Fund/Steve Jones in the memo line.