Hon. John Jones III '73 has been chosen to receive Mercersburg Academy's highest honor, the Class of '32 Distinguished Alumni Award. This prestigious award is presented annually to members of the alumni body who have most distinguished themselves through character, service, and achievement. Other recent award recipients include Tom Hadzor '72, Gardner Dean Patterson Jr. '71, Deborah Simon '74, and Paul Mellott Jr. '70.
"I cannot adequately express how thrilled I am to receive this honor," says Jones. "Mercersburg truly changed my life, and whatever career successes that I have enjoyed are a direct result of the educational experiences and mentoring that I received there. My love for Mercersburg has only grown through the years, and I have been proud to give back to a school that gave me so much. I am entirely humbled by this award."
Jones was officially named Dickinson College's 30th president in February 2022. Prior to Dickinson, he was chief judge of the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania. Jones was appointed to the federal bench by President George W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate in July 2002. Before becoming a federal judge, he was a lawyer in private practice in his hometown of Pottsville, Pennsylvania.
Jones has earned numerous accolades during his career. He received the Outstanding Alumni Award from the Dickinson School of Law, as well as an honorary doctorate in law and public policy from Dickinson College, where he was recognized as one of the 25 most influential graduates in the college's history.
In 2006, Jones was named by Time magazine as one of its 100 most influential people in the world. He also received a Rave Award for Policy from Wired magazine and was the recipient of the first John Marshall Judicial Independence Award, given by the Pennsylvania Bar Association. In 2009, he was the recipient of the Geological Society of America's President's Medal, and in the same year he was inducted into the George Washington Spirit Society.
In 2013, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts appointed Jones to the Committee on Judicial Security, a standing committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, and in 2018 Roberts appointed Jones to the Committee on Space and Facilities. Jones joined Dickinson College's board of trustees in 2008 and served as chair of the board from 2017 to 2021. He has served as an adjunct professor of law at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law.
Jones has presided over hundreds of cases, but two notable cases include Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in 2005, ruling that the teaching of intelligent design in public schools was unconstitutional, and in 2014's case of Whitewood v. Wolf, which declared that Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.
Jones has had many private and public affiliations, including serving as the Pennsylvania state attorney for D.A.R.E., as a member and president-elect of the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association Board, and as chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. For his work in the area of alcohol education he received the Government Leadership Award from the National Commission Against Drunk Driving.
"We are so excited to present John with the Class of '32 Award," says Head of School Quentin McDowell P '25. "John is a tremendous example of what it means to be Mercersburg, which has been reflected in his stellar career and in his unwavering commitment to his alma mater."
As a Mercersburg student, Jones was a dorm prefect and played on the football, baseball, and basketball teams. He was also a chapel usher, a sports editor for The Mercersburg News, a member of the Marshall Society, and active in the Film Club and student government.
Jones also has a long history of service to Mercersburg. He was class agent for 12 years and served as a member of the Alumni Council from 1983 to 2012. He served on the Board of Regents from 2010 to 2020 and was honored as a Regent emeritus in 2021. Jones has been a thoughtful and powerful speaker at special events, including the 2006 Commencement ceremony and the 2009 Cum Laude induction ceremony. More recently, he gave the address at the head of school installation service for Quentin McDowell earlier this year.
In addition to his volunteer work for Mercersburg, Jones has been a consistent donor to the Annual Fund and established the John E. Jones II '44 Memorial Scholarship Fund. A leadership donor with more than 30 years of giving to Mercersburg, he is a member of the Marshall and Irving Alliance and the 1893 Club.
Born and raised in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Jones is a graduate of Dickinson College and Penn State Dickinson Law. Jones's father, John Jones II '44, and brothers, David Jones '75 and James Jones '77, also graduated from Mercersburg. Jones and his wife, Beth, have two children, Meghan and John '11, and three grandchildren.
Jones, together with the 2023 Alumni Council Award recipients (who will be announced at a later date), will be saluted during Reunion Weekend 2023. Alumni from Jones's Class of 1973, as well as all classes ending in 3 and 8, will celebrate reunions in June. Learn, through our video tributes, about previous Class of '32 Award winners.