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In Memoriam: David A. Jones Sr.

September 23, 2019

President Ron Liebowitz presented David A. Jones and Betty Ashbury Jones, MA French ’86 with honorary degrees at the 2009 Commencement.

    MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – David A. Jones Sr., a Middlebury honorary degree recipient and friend of the College, died on Wednesday, September 18, in Louisville, Kentucky, at age 88. During his many years affiliated with Middlebury, Jones served the Middlebury Institute of International Studies from 2006–2017, first as a trustee, then on the Board of Governors, and eventually on the Board of Overseers.

    “There are very few examples of leaders who love their own cities and love the larger world at the same time; who simultaneously embody a quiet strength, a steely determination, and a deep generosity of spirit,” said Laurie Patton in a note to the Middlebury community. “David was one of those leaders. Middlebury became a better place through his example.”

    Born in Louisville on August 7, 1931, Jones was the son of a contractor and a schoolteacher. He attended the University of Louisville on a Navy ROTC scholarship, studying accounting. After his graduation in 1954, he served in the Navy and then taught economics at Quinnipiac College in Hamden, Connecticut. Jones received his law degree from Yale University in 1960 and returned to Louisville.

    In 1961, he was one of six people to invest $1,000 in a company that would eventually become the healthcare giant Humana, Inc., which currently employs 40,000 people in the U.S. In his hometown, Jones grew to be a larger-than-life character, known both for his business acumen and as a passionate supporter of his community.

    Jones served as Humana’s chief executive for 37 years and its board chairman for 44 years. He oversaw the company’s transformation from a nursing home company to a hospital company and then into one of the nation’s leading health insurance corporations.

    In retirement, Jones and his wife, Betty Ashbury Jones, MA French ’86, were generous philanthropists through their CE & S Foundation, supporting an array of nonprofits in their hometown and around the world.

     “David was soft-spoken but immensely powerful,” said Churchill Franklin ’71, former chair of the Middlebury College Board of Trustees. “He didn’t need to say much to get his point across. He and Betty were powerful influencers of the decisions we have made over the past 20 years. Some of the most prominent and positive Middlebury decisions have their fingerprints all over them. Whenever a controversial decision came up in the board room when I was chair, I would always seek and get David and Betty’s perspective and guidance.” 

    The announcement of Jones’s death comes a month after Patton shared the news that Betty Ashbury Jones, for whom Middlebury’s School of French is named, had died.

    “As I said in my note to you then, Betty and David have impacted countless lives being among Middlebury’s most generous supporters, focusing their philanthropy on teaching, language acquisition, and cultural fluency,” said Patton in her message to the community. “They, and their legacy, will live on at Middlebury for years to come.”

    Jones is survived by five children: Susan T. Jones; David A. Jones Jr.; Matthew L. Jones; Daniel H. Jones, an attendee of the Chinese School; and Carol Jones, herself a former Middlebury trustee and an attendee of the German School and class auditor of the School of Hebrew; and 11 grandchildren.