In remembrance of University Writing Program Continuing Lecturer Robert Jones
Robert Neville Jones, Jr., a dedicated and popular Lecturer who taught UCR undergraduates for thirty-five years in the University Writing Program, passed away after a long illness on June 17, 2023. We mourn the loss of an instructor whose long years of effective teaching challenged and lifted over four thousand students to higher levels of achievement as writers, speakers, and close readers.
A graduate of Brigham Young University, Robert Jones earned his Master’s and PhD in English at UCR, where he distinguished himself as a versatile, consistent, and highly effective instructor on all five levels of the UWP curriculum, from ESL courses to advanced composition. As a TA and then as a Lecturer first appointed in 1995, he led almost 250 of the UWP’s small, intensive classes, earning praise from his students and colleagues for his ability to engage undergraduates at often radically different levels of preparation while drawing them toward challenging goals. He was unusually effective. In their evaluations through the decades, his students frequently described their progress as writers and their gratitude for their instructor’s dedication, insistence upon higher achievement, and care for their progress.
- “I learned more in this class than in all my four years of English in high school.”
- “He helped me immensely.”
- “A delight to have as a teacher.”
- [The instructor] “did not sugar-coat,” and “made it clear what I needed to improve.”
Robert Jones’s students found him to be generous in his attention to the difficult task at hand – generous because he was very good at listening closely to the students’ comments and responding to their questions and needs, in class and during office hours, with genuine concern, even as he was determined to move the class forward.
- “[He was] always there.”
- “He made me think of different perspectives.”
- “He was a good teacher, but a hard grader.”
- [The class] “was an optimum learning experience.”
- ” Great professor, always prepared, cares about the students learning.”
His goals for his students were high, his means of helping them the result of years of experimentation and the persistence of sound pedagogical convictions. He was “fun,” some students said, but no one doubted his seriousness. As one student observed, his teaching was “sharp, thought-provoking, astonishing” in a way that “gave us a chance to think.” “He was incredibly well-versed in the material,” another said. He was not reluctant to introduce and develop controversial topics for classroom debate and reasoned inquiry, often explaining and defending conflicting points of view for the sake of spurring discussion and further inquiry. In this he fostered personal and intellectual respect as well as a spirit of exploration. The course records, observations, and evaluations provided by students and colleagues testify to his understated insistence upon rigorous clarity as well as active curiosity, wide inquiry as well as careful organization.
Dr. Jones did these things in part by organizing each class session meticulously without foreclosing discussion and the pursuit of seemingly tangential yet relevant concerns. He also provided, with unwavering dedication, detailed feedback and guidance on students’ papers and in office conferences, all in order to encourage better work on the next assignment. In class his variation on that pattern was to interact with everyone in a spirit of respect and expectation. The goal was students’ success in their aspirations and their ability to meet and exceed the University’s expectations for their work. His students could experience the fusion of these two goals:
- It was “a privilege to be in his course.”
- “He made me realize that I should put effort into my writing and make my words come to life.”
- “He motivated me to continue learning.”
Robert’s ten years of Systemwide service in the Berkeley readings of the UC placement examination supported and buttressed his pedagogy throughout his career. In these and many other ways, he strengthened the campus writing program and helped sustain and improve undergraduate education at UCR so that it was worthy of the name. We will remember his dedication to the old campus motto, “Living the Promise.”
Dr. John C Briggs
Director, University Writing Program