NORMAN, OKLA. – The University of Oklahoma received a $15 million gift from longtime supporters Jonny and Brenda Jones to help fund the renovation and expansion of Jacobson Hall, one of the oldest buildings on the Norman campus.
Home to the OU Welcome Center and Office of Admissions and Recruitment, Jacobson Hall offers prospective students and their families a first impression of the university, with guided tours of OU’s nationally recognized campus beginning on its front steps. During the 2021-22 school year, OAR hosted more than 17,000 campus tours with prospective students and guests from 10 countries. The transformational gift from the Jones family will ensure that OU is best positioned to welcome top students to the OU community. In recognition of the gift, the OU Board of Regents has approved the naming of Jacobson Hall’s campus visitor center to the Jones Family Welcome Center.
“At OU, creating a welcoming and engaging environment for future students starts from the moment they first set foot on campus,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “For many of these students and their families, their first impression of OU begins at Jacobson Hall – a setting that reflects so much of our university’s tradition and history. Most importantly, it’s where they begin to see themselves as part of the OU Family. Thanks to this generous gift from Jonny and Brenda Jones, the Jones Family Welcome Center at Jacobson Hall will become a vibrant space that helps attract the very best students, opening their eyes to the countless opportunities they will have at OU.”
The renovations to the newly named Jones Family Welcome Center will update the existing 17,300-square-foot structure, improving functionality and preserving the building’s historic character. The project will also include an expansion, which will provide additional space for campus tours, financial presentations, application workshops, one-to-one meetings with admissions counselors and prospective student recruitment events. The modernized welcome center will serve as a fitting introduction to a university that has stepped boldly into the future while honoring its rich history.
“Our Admissions and Recruitment team has been working intentionally to bring in outstanding students to OU as enrollment continues to grow,” said Jeff Blahnik, vice president for enrollment management. “Jacobson Hall is the front door of the university to all prospective students. The incredibly generous gift by the Jones family will transform and elevate the work of our team and, more importantly, allow OU to appropriately serve prospective students and their families and help share the impactful story of our university.”
In deciding to provide a leadership gift for work on Jacobson Hall, Jonny and Brenda Jones expressed their belief that it is critical to the university’s future success to be well-positioned to recruit students wanting to make a difference. That belief aligns with a key component of OU’s “Lead On, University” Strategic Plan as it aims to reach Association of American Universities status.
“Jonny and Brenda keenly understood the importance of attracting the best and brightest students to OU and saw immediately how this gift fit directly into the goals of the ‘Lead On, University’ Strategic Plan,” Blahnik said. “Their generosity will serve as an incredible catalyst for our work as a university for years to come. Higher education, particularly at a school like OU, has the ability to change people’s lives. This gift will allow more students to be impacted in more pronounced ways for generations. Their legacy from this gift will be impactful.”
Jonny and Brenda Jones earned their undergraduate degrees at OU in geology and special education, respectively. In 1988, Jonny Jones founded Jones Energy, an exploration, production, and acquisition company. He successfully took the company public on the New York Stock Exchange, where the market cap grew to greater than $1 billion. He then led McArron Partners LP, the investment arm of the Jones family office.
The Jones family has a long history at OU. Jonny’s grandfather enrolled at OU in the fall of 1919, the year Jacobson Hall was built. Four generations of Jones family members, totaling over 40 people, have attended the university since then. This includes Jonny’s father and grandfather, who also earned geology degrees. Members of the Jones family have held season tickets to Sooner football for more than 70 years. As longtime members of the OU community, the Joneses are invested in OU’s success, and their support of the Office of Admissions and Recruitment is a testament to their dedication to the entire university.
As strong advocates for OU, Jonny and Brenda Jones support the university through their funding of various campus initiatives, including Athletics Department capital needs, the Sarkeys Energy Center, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and the President’s Associates program. Their contributions have played a critical role in helping students achieve their educational goals as well as helping faculty maintain excellence in research and instruction. In addition to Jonny and Brenda Jones’s philanthropic involvement with OU, Jonny Jones is a member of the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy Board of Visitors.
“I am incredibly grateful to Jonny and Brenda for supporting our vision for Jacobson Hall,” said Amy Noah, vice president for University Advancement. “This renovation is critically important to attracting new students to the University of Oklahoma. Jonny and Brenda have been dedicated supporters of OU for many years, so it is exciting to see them lead on this vital project.”
Campus tours will continue through the renovation. For more information or to schedule a campus tour, visit ou.edu/admissions/visit.