In all, Jones has given more than $100 million — to prestigious Jefferson Scholarships, endowed professorships and environmental sciences and conservation projects. He once talked about appreciating U-Va. for a balanced education — not just academics but the experience in ethics and character-building. He was a top welterweight boxer as a student and received a degree in economics.
“He was very clear that he very much valued the time he spent here as an undergraduate,” said James H. Wright, president of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, of which Jones was the first substantial benefactor. He remains the largest, Wright said. “He is passionate about education. . . and wants U-Va. to be the best of the best.”
Shortly before the June crisis, Jones and his wife, Sonia, announced their latest project: a $15 million Center for Contemplative Sciences. That effort started with the couple’s voicing an interest in yoga. Sullivan developed the idea, convening professors from varied disciplines — medicine, nursing, education, religious studies — to explore broader academic possibilities.
There were whispers of skepticism among some faculty members, but David Germano, a Buddhist studies professor who will help lead the effort, said that in 20 years at the university, he had never before heard as much enthusiasm. “It was a very positive response,” he said.
A campus in chaos
In June, as the campus was thrown into chaos, Jones was drawn into the spotlight again.
There was already a wave of outrage about an e-mail suggesting that donors had early knowledge of plans for Sullivan’s removal — a message sent by Peter D. Kiernan, a former Goldman Sachs partner who was chairman of a foundation that supports U-Va.’s Darden School of Business.
In the June 10 e-mail, Kiernan wrote that he had been contacted by “two important Virginia alums about working with Helen Dragas on this project, particularly from the standpoint of the search process and the strategic dynamism effort. It pained me to keep this information from you . . . but I was sworn to keep the process confidential.”
Then came Jones’s op-ed.