The Memphis College of Art has a new president: Ron Jones, currently dean of the the College of The Arts at the University of South Florida.
Like his predecessor, Jeff Nesin, who helmed the school from 1991 until June of last year, Jones sports bowties every day. (He owns close to 300).
In an interview conducted as the college’s board voted this week to elect him — which they did unanimously — Jones, who is “68 years old but feels 43 and a half,” admitted that this was just his third visit to Memphis. The first, in December, started off with the National Civil Rights Museum and a stroll down Beale Street for dinner with his wife, Carol, who is already devoted to Memphis barbecue.
Jones said the turning point in his view about the opening was inspired by Murray Riss, an MCA board member who led the search committee.
“He was not trying to talk to me about a job,” said Jones. “He was talking about a dream, a family, a way of thinking and acting that people don’t talk about much these days.”
So far, his newcomer take is that, “Memphis really has a personality. Other cities are there, but they’re dull and transferable. You can go from one to the other without noticing. They don’t feel real.
“Memphis — with its sophistication and grittiness — has a great feel. It’s almost like a cousin to New Orleans.”
About the college specifically, Jones said that he was impressed by an institution focused “on quality more than just growth,” and that “MCA deserves a better reputation than it has.”
His tourist sensibilities are arts-oriented: He plans to visit the National Ornamental Metal Museum before he sees Graceland.
“Dr. Jones is an accomplished arts educator and administrator who spent the last 12 years at the University of South Florida as dean of fine arts there,” said Robert Fogelman, chairman of the MCA board, adding that the size and scope of the art college in Tampa meant Jones had in some respects “already been the president of an arts college.”
“He understands the sense of community that is important to us at the College of Art,” Fogelman said.