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March 19, 2013

ULM celebrates the life of legendary history professor “H.P.”

Horace Perry Jones, Ph.D., was named after the famous Roman Poet Laureate Horace who coined the phrase, carpe diem or “seize the day.”

H.P. did just that. During his 47 years as a history professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, he urged his students to do the same.

Jones, 83, died in his home on Tuesday, March 19, 2013. The university community remembers his almost half-century of service as a history professor from Jan. 1, 1965, to his retirement May 19, 2012.

ULM President Dr. Nick J. Bruno said, "When I talk to students, faculty, and alumni about their ULM experiences, one name always emerges—H.P. Jones. He made a tremendous impact on generations of our students. He did not just teach history, he lived history. Our students and alumni tell us he made the world seem like an adventure and that anything was possible. He traveled the world and shared that invaluable knowledge with his students. I want to express my deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and the university family that loved him."

A native of High Point, N.C., Jones served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. Following his stint with the Marines, Jones climbed on his bicycle and started his famous, 18-month trip around the world in 1961. Soon after that, he ditched his bike and began to hitchhike. He traveled through 22 countries and four continents.

In a 1997 interview with Georgiann Potts, former director of public affairs for the university, Jones said he embarked on his trip around the world for the sake of adventure and to gain firsthand knowledge of the cultures and places he would eventually share with his students.

In 1965, Jones arrived at then Northeast Louisiana State College, by way of the University of Mississippi Graduate School, where he earned his Ph.D. in history. But it was the university in Monroe that he finally called home.

Jones’ impact on his students and colleagues was immediately evident.

Vicki L. Gilliam, the owner of The Gilliam Firm, in Clinton, Miss., earned a B.A in social studies ('87) and an M.A in history ('90) from ULM. She remembered Jones’ reference to “Garcia,” a popular American and military expression for taking initiative.

“Long before modern day visual aids and computer technology, Dr. Jones was able to communicate the stories of history so well that his students could actually visualize the events.  Because he made those stories come to life, we remembered them.  But more than just those treasures of history, he taught us how to be 'story tellers.' I will never achieve the spellbinding ability that he had, but I will never stop trying. And, hopefully, as he encouraged each of us, I have carried the message to Garcia!”

ULM colleagues remember Jones as a campus icon.

Ruth E. Smith, Ph.D., ULM Director of Humanities and Head of World Languages, said, “Dr. Jones was an icon of the Arts & Sciences College. He will forever be remembered by hundreds of students and faculty for his lively lectures and passion for history. There has never been a faculty member at ULM who was such an avid supporter of all the university's efforts.”

ULM alum Austin Bantel earned his BFA in 2010. He is now the creative coordinator for the Monroe-West Monroe Convention & Visitor’s Bureau.

Bantel vividly recalls the most intriguing part of his first day in Jones’ class as one that started as an 8 a.m. class and ended as an unforgettable memory, sprinkled with humor.

“He strode into the classroom slowly gazing around looking back and forth from one end of the room to the other,” he said. “He took his place at the center of the room, straightened his back, and stood tall. He then snapped his head up, smiled at the class, pulled a fistful of tootsie roll candy out of a prosthetic leg and threw them as hard as he could into the crowd. People laughed, ducked, and reached to catch the candy. Most were not expecting that. They were intrigued, and most of all they were participating.”

Jones was a lifelong learner.

After graduating from Mississippi College, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education and Physical Education in 1957, Jones went to Boone, N.C., to teach at Appalachian High School and complete graduate work at Appalachian State Teachers College.

After graduating from ASTC in 1958 with an M.A. in social studies, Jones returned to Mississippi and served for two years as history teacher and coach at Leland High School before accepting a position as athletic director at the American School in London, England.

In 1972, during the first year such an honor was bestowed by ULM and the alumni association, Jones was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. In 1978, the Daughters of the American Revolution, Louisiana Society, named Jones the Most Outstanding College History Teacher in Louisiana.

Jones married Lucia Demma and together, they had two daughters, Beth and Kathy.

In the 1997 interview with Potts, Jones summarized his teaching philosophy: 

“It is our responsibility as teachers to learn all that we can from life and to share those lessons with those who will come after us. That is the lesson of history. After all, nothing else is important.”

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