Memorial services Wednesday for Betty Jean Jones, U-M dean and theatre professor, who died in a plane crash last week

January 14, 1997
Contact: Bernie DeGroat bernied@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Memorial services for Betty Jean Jones, associate dean of the University of Michigan’s Rackham School of Graduate Studies and professor of theatre, are scheduled for Wednesday (Jan. 15) in Albany, Ga., and Jan. 23 on the U-M campus.

Jones died Jan. 9 in the crash of Comair Flight 3272 in southeast Michigan. She was 47.

Wednesday’s service will be held at 2:30 p.m. at the Greater Second Mount Olive Baptist Church in Albany.

The U-M memorial service, “A Celebration of the Life of Betty Jean Jones (in Two Acts),” will begin at 5 p.m. with a formal service (“Act One”) at the Rackham Building Amphitheater, followed by a celebratory reception (“Act Two”) at the Trueblood Theatre in the Frieze Building (next door to Rackham).

Jones, returning from a conference in Las Vegas by way of Cincinnati when the crash occurred, had taught in the U-M Department of Theatre and Drama since September 1994. She was named associate dean for fellowships, recruitment and student support at the Rackham Graduate School in January 1996.

“Betty Jean had a remarkable and wide-ranging presence in the Graduate School and in the many places she touched in the University,” said Rackham Dean Nancy Cantor. “She was a model and a leader for her students, faculty colleagues, and for all of us at Rackham, who loved her dearly.”

Erik Fredricksen, chair of the theatre department, said that when he met Jones at a conference four years ago, he knew that he had to try to find a place for her on the U-M faculty.

“She has been a remarkable, energetic and passionate teacher, director and friend of students,” he said. “She has been a most rare, honest and valued colleague. Her passing is a great loss to all of us.”

Jones, the first associate dean at Rackham to serve as liaison with University departments in the arts and humanities, was an expert in classic contemporary American theatre and African American theatre and cinema.

She directed more than two dozen stage productions and originated and directed American Theatre and Drama Projects, a collaborative process in which the entire theatrical production team studies the script together before casting the production.

Prior to joining the U-M, Jones taught for 12 years at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she also received a master’s degree in 1978. She earned a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in 1983 and received a bachelor’s degree from Bennett College in 1971.

She is survived by her father, Silas Jones of Albany, Ga., and two sisters, Anita Jones of San Rafael, Calif., and Mildred Spovall of Margate, Fla. She was preceded in death by her mother, Irene.

Contributions for a scholarship fund in her name can be sent to the U-M Department of Theatre and Drama, 2550 Frieze Building, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1285, or by calling (313) 764-5350.