September 15, 2010
La Salle University Honors Dr. Nancy Jones with the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award
President Brother Michael J. McGinniss, F.S.C., Ph.D., presents Nancy Jones, Ph.D., with the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award.
Inspired by a professor who took a personal interest in her, Dr. Nancy Jones has spent the past quarter century doing the same for La Salle University students, both in and out of the classroom. For this and many other examples of service to students, the Wilmington resident received the University’s Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award, which recognizes members of the University community who have “exhibited in their daily lives an understanding of and a commitment to Lasallian priorities and traditions.”
“The cells stopped moving in my body when I learned I received the award,” said Jones. “I was stunned, especially when you look at the other people who have received it. ‘How could I be the one chosen?’ I said to myself. That was how I reacted. That and I called my mother.”
When Jones came to La Salle in 1986 to interview for a full-time position with the chemistry department, she noticed something about the atmosphere at La Salle, “and it was more than the air I was breathing,” she recalled. “When I finished and got back to my car, I knew this was the type of place I wanted to be associated with, where you get to do things one-on-one with students, and that doesn’t happen at every college.”
Along with teaching and advising, Jones has spent countless hours with the University’s “Day One” summer program for new students and their families.
“There’s nothing like that first day on campus for students,” she said. “They’re so excited, and yet so self conscious – will I make friends, do I look right, do I have the right demeanor, and ‘Oh my goodness, I’m taking chemistry….’”
“It’s also a fascinating experience for the parents,” added Jones. “They ask me, are you going to take care of my child? And I reply, we’re in this together, to get the child from where they are to where they want to be.’”
Her dedication to students grew out of an experience with a professor in her junior year of college while taking a course in analytical and inorganic chemistry.
“I enjoyed that class very much, both the content and the instructor, Richard Eisenberg. I thought he was approachable, and I was interested in his research area. But I was having an extremely hard time deciding whether to approach him about working in his labs and then actually asking him. I didn't have to ask because he asked me. It was the first time anyone had really noticed me,” she said. “I liked that area of chemistry and the idea of graduate study. I met professors from all over the world that year. Eisenberg encouraged me to apply, and I ended up at one of the top schools for inorganic chemistry.”
In 2000, Jones became founding director of the Integrated Science, Business and Technology (ISBT) program; she still teaches courses in general chemistry and ISBT classes.
In presenting the Distinguished Lasallian Educator Award to Jones, La Salle President Br. Michael J. McGinniss, F.S.C., said, “Those who have nominated her for consideration point out that her students invariably see her as approachable and energetic, someone buoyed by the sheer love for the subject matter as well as the art of teaching. It has been their good fortune to have her in their lives – teaching, coaching, and encouraging them to accept challenges and to consider new possibilities. Those students describe her passion as contagious, and someone who unfailingly takes a personal interest in their learning. This may be because in her own life journey, she – the meek student who was most likely to be overlooked – was the one “found” by a highly regarded teacher who could see her considerable potential. He invited her to partner with him and other students on an undergraduate research project in the science lab, where together they would search for the truth. That invitation changed everything. In the end, she decided to be a college professor who would, like her mentor, know her students well enough – especially those who are not the “stars” – so that she might be the difference-maker in their lives. And that is precisely what she has become.”