From beakers to bicycles

(09-10-2012)

Chemistry Professor Marty Jones retires

marty jones retires fall12 main image

What would dr. jones do?

At the 2012 Adams State University spring commencement ceremony, Dr. Frank Novotny, vice president of academic affairs, drew attention to the green band around his wrist while addressing the packed gym: “Many of us today are wearing these bands with the initials, WWDJD – What Would Dr. Jones Do?”

He would do the right thing – he would make the choice that most benefited the student, his friend or colleague, the campus, the community… the earth. If this statement sounds grandiose and exaggerated – you don’t know Marty.

“Marty has a positive approach to life that is contagious, and he brings out the best in those around him, hence the bracelets WWDJD,” Novotny explained.

Students and colleagues donned the bracelets to recognize Jones’ retirement and appointment as emeritus professor of chemistry. As for retirement plans, Jones said: “I think I will just figure it out after the fact. It will give me great opportunities to bike and fish in the middle of the week during the fall, which is the best season we have here in Alamosa, and I would also like to travel.”

Focus on teaching

In his 23 years at Adams State, Jones always taught chemistry, specifically organic chemistry. He also taught introduction, general, advanced, and chemistry of sustainability, as well as nursing chemistry and other courses when necessary. “Marty was never one to shirk responsibility or forgo an opportunity to lend a hand,” said Dr. Christina Miller ’92, professor of chemistry.

“When I interviewed for a chemistry faculty position, and in my first year, it was very clear that Marty was very student-centered and expected other faculty, especially those in chemistry, to be the same,” Novotny said. “He challenges students to do their best, while providing the support necessary for them to succeed.”

Jones said: “I came to Adams State because I wanted to move away from a Ph.D. granting institution to a primarily undergraduate institution, one that put a really high value on quality undergraduate teaching. I found a very good fit at Adams State.

“People talk about when you see the ‘light’ go on, ‘I finally got it.’ That really does bring a smile to your face. When a student asks a very good question, that brings a smile to my face – that means they are paying attention and thinking about what we are covering.”

Student respect & admiration

“He has great teaching methods; he’s easy to understand, and if I don’t understand something, he’ll stop and explain it another way,” said Brianna Metter, a sophomore biology major. “If Dr. Jones ever did teach a chemical reaction wrong; the chemical reaction would change to ensure he was right out of pure respect for Dr. Jones.”

Keiko Woodyard, also a sophomore biology major, added: “His classes are packed with information, but he approaches it with a light heart and brings real-world applications to the material.”

Dr. Steve Valentine ‘95, a chemistry grad who recently accepted a tenure track position as an assistant professor at West Virginia University, said: “Marty’s devotion to student achievement affected me personally; it strengthened my desire to become a teacher. Marty was an exceptional instructor. He was able to connect with students at the individual level, essentially providing the most effective learning environment.”

While mentoring graduate students at Indiana University, Valentine often revisited Jones’ teaching techniques. “Marty would have classroom presentations to describe chemical phenomena such as reaction mechanisms. From him, I learned that visual learning is one of the most effective methods used by students.”

Conscientious advisor

“In addition to always being willing to write me letters of recommendation, he had a strong influence on my decision to attend graduate school,” said senior chemistry major Bryce Turner.

“If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have finished my degree,” said James Trujillo ‘02, executive assistant to the President and Board of Trustees. After switching his major multiple times and many years in college, Trujillo had given up on obtaining his degree. Jones reviewed Trujillo’s transcripts and discovered he was closest to a business degree. “He helped me make a plan and graduate.”

Trujillo also noted: “You can’t frequent school functions and not see Dr. Marty Jones around. He is notorious for serving the flapjacks during the finals week late-night breakfasts.” Jones was also active in the community steel drum band.

“Dr. Jones has an undeniable gift for teaching. He has the ability to light up a classroom with enthusiasm, which can be difficult for a subject with the reputation of being incredibly difficult,” said Reyna Reyes, a senior chemistry major. “He makes you believe in yourself; that is the most inspiring thing about his teaching style.”

The Elements of Marty Jones

Bicycles

  • Western Auto early ‘60s bike with longhorn handle bars, wide tires and coil springs under the seat
  • 3 speed English racer (although he coveted the “cool” kids’ Schwinn Sting Rays)
  • Western Auto 10 speed (stolen)
  • Peugeot 10 speed (stolen)
  • Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike; 2 road bikes (including current Specialized Roubaix)

Autos

  • 1964 Chevrolet Nova
  • 1972 Pinto station wagon (“bad decision”)
  • 1968 VW van, 1980 Mazda station wagon
  • 1989 Nissan pickup
  • 1989 Chevy S-10 Blazer
  • 1999 Ford Explorer

Married

37 years to Diana (instructor of mathematics): “She is smarter than I am and a better teacher – she is phenomenal.”

Fishing tip

“It is a real treat to catch a carp on a fly in the San Luis Lakes.”

Advice

To Aaron Moehlig (filling Jones’ faculty position) “Respect the students and all your colleagues (including staff). The students are why we are here.”

Volunteering

He and Diana consider Adams State and the community their extended family and think it’s “cool to hang out with other good folks.”

Influences
  • Originally majored in math: “A lackluster math teacher turned me off –a wonderful chemistry professor turned me on.”
  • Discovered the rewards of teaching in graduate school.
  • Dr. Kay Watkins and Dr. Mel Arnold, emeritus professors of chemistry, convinced him to teach at Adams State instead of USC (now known as CSU Pueblo).

Notable achievements

  • 2010 Autumn@Adams Last Lecture: “Things I Learned Without Going to Kindergarten
  • Served as interim chair for Human Performance and Physical Education during the spring 2010 and spring 2011 semesters.
  • Initiated Adams State EARTH – Environmental Action for Resources, Transportation & Health – promoting recycling, renewable energy, and sustainability
  • Along with colleagues, hosts the annual Chemistry Magic Show, free and open to the public.
  • 2007 AS&F Award for Excellence in Student Engagement
  • 2009 Presidential Teaching Award
  • 2012 Associated Students and Faculty Award for Excellence in Student Centered Instructio

Article by Mariah Pepe ‘15 and Linda Relyea ‘96