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(Posted 7-2-04)
Contact: Dan Nonte, 336-334-5371

New Fund for Students Honors Theatre Professor

GREENSBORO – Friends of alumna and former faculty member Betty Jean Jones, who died in a 1997 plane crash, have created a professional development fund in her honor at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Started with about $10,000 in donations, the fund will help students in the Department of Theatre and the Department of Broadcasting and Cinema study abroad and attend auditions, conferences, symposia and internships.

Theatre Professor Deb Bell worked with Jones and is among those who created the fund.

 “She was such a vibrant personality. The students loved her,” Bell said. “Anytime we were out on the street shopping together, there was someone who knew her.”

Jones was known for her lively parties where students, faculty and other friends would gather and enjoy the fried chicken, sweet tea, ice cream and sweet potato pie she had learned to make as a girl in Albany, Ga.

Bell remembers walking behind Jones in a faculty procession at a graduation ceremony in the Greensboro Coliseum. As soon as Jones stepped into the view of the black-gowned students, they let out a deafening roar.

Jones, an African-American, earned a bachelor’s degree at Bennett College in 1971 and an MFA in directing at UNCG in 1978. While studying at UNCG, she directed “Dutchman” and “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground,” two of the university’s earliest productions of African-American drama. She earned her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin.
In 1982, she returned to UNCG to become a faculty member in the Department of Communication and Theatre.

Extensive international travel provided Jones with a broad perspective for her teaching, writing and directing. She strongly supported travel assistance for students to promote their personal and professional development.

She taught at UNCG until 1995 when she accepted a position at the University of Michigan.

“She was a trailblazer,” Robert Hansen, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said in 1998, “a true pioneer who opened new vistas for us and changed the face of UNCG Theatre.”

Those wishing to contribute to the fund should contact Tom Gaffney, director of development for the College of Arts and Sciences, at (336) 256-1275 or


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