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 Clemson University 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 Clemson University 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.