Stan Jones—a former lawmaker, state higher education commissioner and founder of the not-for-profit Complete College America—died Monday at his home in Indianapolis. He was 68.
A Democrat, Jones was elected to the Indiana House in 1974 at just 24 years old and served in the chamber for 16 years. Gov. Evan Bayh made him a senior adviser in 1990 and five years later appointed him to serve as higher education commissioner.
He served 12 years at the agency under four governors and helped create the 21st Century Scholars program, the Indiana Education Roundtable and the Core 40 curriculum for high schools.
"Indiana lost a great citizen, Purdue lost a great alum, and America lost a tireless advocate for education when Stan Jones passed away today," Purdue University President and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said in a written statement Monday night. "Among many contributions, Stan was early and active in the quest to improve completion and graduation rates, and higher education attainment. The best way to honor him is to continue our efforts on all those fronts."
Jones was also the behind-the-scenes architect of Gov. Frank O’Bannon’s efforts to create a community college system by partnering Ivy Tech State College with Vincennes University. The partnership later dissolved but Ivy Tech has expanded into a statewide community college system with 32 degree-granting locations.
Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, called Jones a “visionary leader.”
“Perhaps more than any person I’ve known, Stan was doggedly persistent in getting people and groups that were often adversaries to sit down and talk to one another,” Brinegar said in a statement. “And it often resulted in something good for the state—which always was his goal, to continually improve Indiana’s education and workforce systems.”
Jones founded Indianapolis-based Complete College America in 2009, with the goal of working with states to increase the number of people with post-secondary degrees and certifications. Thirty-seven states are members, which requires each governor—in partnership with its state universities—to pledge to make college completion a priority with goals, action plans and progress measurements.
In a statement posted Monday on Facebook, the group said that “whenever urging forward those around him, Stan would often famously say, ‘change at the margins will only produce marginal change.’ Those words could never be used to describe Stan Jones—a leader, husband, father and man who made a significant difference for the betterment of Indiana and our country.”