The new president and first lady of Fresno Pacific University thought they were attending a small welcome to their new home.
Instead, Joseph Jones, Ph.D., and wife Yvette found themselves overwhelmed by an enthusiastic outpouring of broad support for the university and for the future, as more than 90 leaders representing 40 business, education, church and community organizations and political officeholders crammed the Downtown Business Hub (DBH) Tuesday, August 8, 2017. “This was not just about us, but about the hospitality of the Valley and its high regard for FPU,” Joseph Jones said. “There’s anticipation of our partnership with the community.”
The DBH, at 1444 Fulton St., Fresno, is itself model for Fresno’s future. This first bi-lingual business incubator in the Western United States has helped launch 80 businesses, created or maintained 12,000 jobs and generated $3 million in private investment in the community since opening in 2002.
Among the guests were Paul Parnell, Ph.D., chancellor of the State Center Community College District (SCCCD); Fresno County School Superintendent Jim Yovino; Jonathan Villalobos, pastor of Bethany Inner City Church; Lori Bennett, Ed.D., president of Clovis Community College; Sandra Caldwell, Ph.D., president of Reedley College; Tish Rice, president of the Fresno Teachers Association; Tara Lynn Gray, CEO of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce; Earl Canson Jr., senior pastor of Fresno Westside Seventh-Day Adventist Church; Lynnette Zelezny, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs at Fresno State; and representatives from other SCCCD schools, Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula and Senator Andy Vidak. Congressman Jim Costa and Vidak sent proclamations and Arambula sent a letter of congratulations. “It was so nice to see the community come together without a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them,’” said Gwen Burks, assistant to President Jones.
Joseph and Yvette Jones come to FPU from Forman Christian College (FCC), Lahore, Pakistan, where he was chief academic officer. His responsibilities there also included academic administration, marketing communications and enrollment management. Prior to FCC, Joseph Jones spent more than two decades at colleges and universities in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities. An ordained, licensed minister, he graduated with a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice with cognates in planned change, restorative justice and administration from the University at Albany, part of the State University of New York system. His M.S. in Psychology is from Oklahoma State University and his B.A. in Psychology is from Colby College.
Others present with a Fresno Pacific connection included Ronald Smith, Ed.D., CEO of Sterling & Smith Funeral Home, a member of the FPU Board of Trustees, and Randy White, D.Min., executive director of the Center for Community Transformation and associate professor of community transformation at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.
The event was sponsored by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; Black Women Organized for Political Action; the Black American Political Association of California; the Central Valley Black Nurses Association; the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce; the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Valley PBS; the West Fresno Faith Based Organization; and the West Fresno Family Resource Center.
The couple was moved by the response from the ethnically diverse group at the reception and others they’ve met since Joseph assumed the presidency in July. “The welcome that we’ve received at all levels has been empowering. It was a great spirit of enthusiasm,” Yvette Jones said.
Photo: From left--Yvette Jones, Joseph Jones and Tara Lynn Gray