The National Scholars Program lost a member of the family on August 23, 2009, when senior financial management major Donovan Jones passed away. Donovan was an endlessly optimistic, fiercely loyal, and much loved friend, student, advisee and campus leader.
Below are memories and reflections of Donovan from the National Scholars who were fortunate enough to know him during his all too brief life.
Donovan with (from left) Rahul Loungani, Brent Berkompas, Meredith Myers and Dr. Bill Lasser, director of the National Scholars Program, during a spring 2008 seminar. Following the photo are Lasser's remarks made at Donovan's funeral on behalf of the Clemson family.
When Donovan visited Clemson in the Spring of 2006, he signed up for a campus tour — led, though he did not know her at the time — by Kelly Jones, who was also a National Scholar. At the beginning of the tour Donovan looked very seriously at Kelly and said, “All right, you've got two hours to impress me!” Then his face lit up and he flashed that big smile that all of us know so well, and laughed.
I guess Kelly impressed Donovan on that tour, because he accepted our offer to become a Clemson National Scholar and an Honors student and enrolled at Clemson that fall. Over the last three years, he certainly impressed everyone at Clemson, with his intellect, his passion for learning, his love of others, his loyalty, his positive energy, and, of course with his incredible smile.
I speak today not only for myself — as the Director of the National Scholars Program and the Calhoun Honors College I was Donovan’s professor, adviser, and, I dare say, his friend. But I also speak on behalf of all of those at Clemson — and there were many more than we could count — who were touched by Donovan and whose lives were made richer by his presence. I speak for President Jim Barker and the Clemson Board of Trustees; for his professors and advisers and for all the Clemson faculty and staff. But above all I speak for Donovan’s fellow students — many of whom are here today — who shared his life inside and outside the classroom, in Clemson and on trips to Spain and Alaska, at the Tiger newspaper; in the Financial Management Department and at the Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity; in the National Scholars Program, the Dixon Fellows Program, and the Calhoun Honors College.
To all of us, Donovan was a never-ending source of joy in learning and in life. Everyone I’ve spoken to this week remembers the smile. He “literally made the world a brighter place,” said one of his fellow students, “and everyone who knew him finds it difficult to think of a time when he was a ‘downer’ or unhappy.” But Donovan also had a facial expression that he reserved for when he was in learning mode. He would look at you with an intensity that made you realize why you became a professor in the first place. Behind that face he was analyzing, processing, and reflecting, deep in the world of ideas that he found so fascinating and compelling.
Above all, Donovan loved Clemson, and Clemson loved him. He was part of the glue that holds the Clemson family together. He would look across the room and decide to make first one friend, then another; then he would make sure that both of his new friends became friends of each other. “He introduced me to so many people,” one of my students told me, “making my social circle the richer with his friends.” Today those who became friends through Donovan are leaning on, and supporting, one another.
As for Clemson’s faculty and staff, Donovan’s importance to us is best summed up in the words of my colleague, Jamie Williams, who serves as the associate director of the National Scholars Program. “Whenever I met with Donovan,” Jamie told me, “I came away with a sense of renewal about my career in higher education. Donovan was easy to talk to, asked great questions, and really listened to any advice I shared. A student like Donovan reminds us why we became educators in the first place, and reminds us further of the impact we can have on students, and in return, of the extraordinary impact that the students can have on us.” Donovan, Clemson will never forget you.
SUSIE IRIZARRY, Aug. 23, 2011 | Today, you'd be just about to start your second year of law school, and I'd be telling you all about my summer spent working at Yosemite National Park and that I'm just now applying to graduate schools. You'd revel in my summer adventures and tell me that everything is going to be alright. Your positive spirit and ability to work through the difficult points is what made you my big brother in NSP and at Clemson. Today, its been two years since your passing... and it stings just as much as it did the day you left. Your spirit and energy live on in all of the National Scholars and all of the friends and family you left behind. I am continually inspired by the memory of your smile, and the blessing of knowing you during your time at Clemson. Two years later, you still live in my heart and my memory just as strong as the days we spent eating lunch in Harcombe. You'll never be forgotten, and you'll live on in the lives of all of the National Scholars... our successes will be your successes forever more. You'll always be my favorite big brother in National Scholars.
HOPE STEWART | My first memories of Donovan are from our Scholars Retreat. We were Facebook friends and I had noticed his birthday was going to be while we were away on the retreat so I made sure to stop and get a card for all of us to sign before we left for the retreat. He was so excited to finally be turning 18. It's interesting looking back now that my first and last memories of him all surround his birthday. He was so excited about finally turning 21 too. Just three short years is far too short a time to know someone like Donovan. I did not know when I bought that card the summer before starting at Clemson that Donovan would come to mean so much to me, or that I would have so many good (mostly humorous) memories of the guy with the big heart and the even bigger smile.
I think all the members of my cohort would say that Donovan was an integral part of our group. There is hardly a story from Europe that does not have Donny in it. Clubbing every Wednesday night with Donovan making it his job to act as the body guard for all of the girls to make sure we were safe. Taking the train to London and taking pictures of him with Ali's teddy bear as he snoozed. The endless card games. I specifically remember him standing in the kitchen while Allison and I made pasta, noodles, and homemade sauces and asking endless questions about what we were doing and how we could possibly make anything without a recipe! Donovan was always asking questions, not just about cooking, but about everything. He always wanted to learn new things and he always wanted to know what was going on in people's lives.
Donny was such a good man. He was the perfect gentleman and a wonderful friend. He always had a smile and a hello and could make me smile, even if I had no desire to do so. I cannot believe he is gone, but at least we all got to have him in our lives for the time that we did. I think we can all agree that is was not long enough, but I think we could also all agree that the short time we did spend was not wasted. I wish there could be more fun stories about him crawling around on WWII ruins, posing for "gangsta" pictures in front of the Tower Bridge in London, and dancing in the Holmes basement, but I will always appreciate the ones that I have. I'll always remember how it made my day every time I bumped into you on campus and I'll miss you always buddy!
DAMON ANDREWS | Donovan could lift up a room without saying a word -- his smile was that infectious. I can't name a person who didn't call Donovan a friend, and he will be missed by many. The love for Donovan from his many friends and family is matched only by Donovan's own love for each of us and for life itself. He will be missed greatly.
RAHUL LOUNGANI | Shortly after Donovan and I moved in together this year, we were in the car on our way back from somewhere when he told me he used to be a bit shy and reserved in his childhood. I told him he was lying. Anyone who met Donovan knew that he was one of the most open, congenial, and comforting people to be around. Every person he met became his friend, and in each friendship, his sincerity and genuine nature was evident. His personality emanated from him and affected everyone he was around.
While we were in Europe, the rest of us guys used to have trouble meeting new girls. I don't know if they thought we were creepy or were just completely uninterested in talking to young freshman, but Donovan's attempts always seemed to work out better. Not only would he just meet one girl, but he would meet their entire group, and then introduce them to the rest of us. He was a connector. That's what he did. And his ability to do that was based on the virtue and sincerity in his personality.
At Clemson, Donovan introduced me to countless people and made my friend circle rich with his own. Not only did Donovan and I have great times and memories together, but his connections also allowed me to form memories with others whom I may have never met.
That's what Donovan leaves behind with me: his memories and his lessons. The nature of his friendship and the virtue in his character leave the rest of us lacking, and we will be stronger and better if we follow his example.
Thanks for everything bro, I'm gonna miss you.