By Malinda Miller (Engl, Jour’92; MJour’98))
Witty. Funny. Patient. Mentor. Student-focused. Zen.
These are a few of the descriptions that started popping up in emails from alumni we reached out to when Steve Jones, a journalism instructor and assistant dean for student success, announced that he’ll retire in December after 44 years.
“Oh, my gosh, anything for Steve,” responded Tessa Diestel (Jour’18), a production assistant at ESPN, who described him as a wonderful storyteller and professor with “the greatest sly sense of humor and the best tie collection.”
Ariana Freeman (Jour’18) remembers how students could depend on his door to be open and his candy jar full.
“I first met Steve on my visit to CU the summer of 2015. He not only convinced me that CU was the best place to go to chase my journalism dreams, but he never hesitated to help when asked,” says Freeman, now a journalist at CBS News.
Steve has so many ties with CMCI alumni from throughout the years
The request for memories also sent several former students on a search for images from decades ago. Michael Davies (Jour’94), senior vice president of field operations for Fox Sports, went to look through the 5,000 photos that he’d paid his 12-year-old to scan. “You know how I found this in my Google photos? I searched ‘mustache.’ True story,” he told us.
Tom Costello (Jour’87), a correspondent at NBC News, recalled Steve’s knowledge of a CU newscast tape that he’s grateful has never surfaced.
“Let’s just say I tested the FCC’s ‘no vulgarity’ rule while anchoring one day in 1986. After graduating, I always returned to Boulder to guest lecture whenever Steve asked, fearful that otherwise that tape might mysteriously find its way out of Steve’s desk drawer,” Costello says.
Jones started his career at CU in 1976 as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication. While teaching broadcast production classes, he built the production side of live student newscasts on the Boulder cable television system and developed the livestreaming system as a way for his advanced television production students to gain additional experience.
Jones has also served in a number of administrative positions in the former school of journalism and CMCI, as Jim Gray (Advert’81), a longtime sportscaster at Showtime, Fox and Westwood One Radio, noted.
“Steve Jones was the pillar of strength and stability for the school of journalism for decades,” Gray says. “He was the glue that brought the faculty, administration and students together.”
Almost everyone we reached out to emphasized that Jones played an integral role in helping launch their careers. Recent graduate Lina Takahashi (Jour’19), who is now at NBC Sports Group, says, “Steve is the most well-connected person, and I knew I could always turn to him for advice on internship/career choices.”
Denver7 News Director Holly Gauntt (Jour’84) added, “Steve is the reason I’m a broadcast journalist. He had such passion for the profession, and his enthusiasm was infectious! He taught so many of us, so well.”
Amid the challenges of the past year, Jones has remained a critical voice of support for current students. Vinay Simlot, who is on track to graduate in May 2021 with degrees in aerospace engineering and journalism, appreciates Jones’ attitude of taking “work seriously without being serious all the time.”
“My favorite jokes he’s told about my work are, ‘It seems like Vinay missed the focus lesson,’ or, ‘Did you shoot that video in an earthquake?’” says Simlot, who has worked with Jones for several years in classes and on the student-run television show Buff Sports Live.
“Regardless of how much he worked, or how many challenges he had that week, he made us feel like he was happy to see us and that we were the most important thing he did.”