NINDS's Jones Retires After 34 Years of Government Service
By Shannon E. Garnett
NINDS will never be the same, coworkers lament. One of the friendliest, most effective and perhaps most charismatic members of its staff, John H. Jones, deputy executive officer, recently retired. "The time was right. I've accomplished a lot of the things I wanted to accomplish," said Jones. "I was also envious of my siblings, who are all retired now."
Tall with a striking smile, Jones was born the youngest of 8 children in Prattville, Ala., a small town approximately 15 miles north of Montgomery. He graduated from Morris Brown College in Atlanta, earning a degree in biology in 1964.
John H. Jones
Upon receiving his diploma, he joined the Army, where he served for 3 years. He hung up his fatigues in 1968, grabbed his biology degree and headed to NIH -- the land of opportunity for budding young scientists.
He remembers vividly the day he decided NIH was where he "had to be." While watching television coverage of the riots in Washington, D.C. (after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) with his parents, Jones's father suddenly turned to him and said, "Are you sure you want to go there?" Jones simply answered, "It's not a matter of want, but I have to go."
Soon after, he began his NIH career working in the laboratories of the NINDS Electroencephalography Branch. Although he loved working in the labs, the opportunity for career advancement caused him to switch to an administrative position. In 1971 he became an administrative assistant in NINDS's Intramural Research Program, where he served until becoming the administrative officer in the institute's Office of the Director in 1976.
"From the lab bench to the halls of administration, John has played a key role in the implementation of the mission of the NINDS, and has been especially effective in helping the cause of equal opportunity in brain and nervous system research," said Levon O. Parker, NINDS equal opportunity officer, who has worked side-by-side with Jones for nearly 30 years -- beginning in the NINDS labs.
In 1990, Jones became deputy executive officer, the position he held at the time of his retirement. With the exception of a brief detail assignment from 1996 to 1997 as acting executive officer for DRG, Jones served his entire NIH career at NINDS.
"John is easily one of the most well-known and respected people on campus," said Kevin E. Kirby, NINDS executive officer. "I'll really miss his competence, his vast experience, and his friendship."
Throughout his career Jones has garnered many accolades. Most recently he was presented the NINDS Leadership Award in recognition of his "consistent, outstanding and effective administrative guidance and direction to the NINDS."
He was specifically honored for his exceptional service during a critical time when the institute experienced several major personnel changes. During that time, he played a significant part in keeping NINDS's administrative functions running smoothly -- serving as acting executive officer in 1997 and acting personnel officer in 1998 -- while the institute searched for new executive and personnel officers and also for a new director. Jones made sure NINDS suffered no disruption of service during the transitions.
Jones also served as a mentor to many interns and young staff members, encouraging them and offering advice and guidance when needed. He never hesitated to make new staff feel welcome with pleasant greetings or a simple friendly wave, immediately putting newcomers at ease.
When asked what he will miss most about NIH, Jones said, "The people. I've established good working relationships with many people. I'll miss them." He will not, however, miss the Beltway commute, he joked.
Jones plans to travel to Florida, California and Alabama to visit his siblings, to work on home improvement projects, and to garden. "I think NIH is a wonderful place to work. I've spent the majority of my career here," he said. "NIH is the best government agency to work in and NINDS is one of the best institutes to work for."