Augustana Receives $1 Million Endowment Gift from David B. Jones Foundation

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Augustana University today announced a $1 million gift from the David B. Jones Foundation. The gift will be used toward the establishment of an endowed chair in anthropology/archeology and will support outstanding teaching, scholarship and service.

“Augustana is honored and deeply grateful to the David B. Jones Foundation for this significant gift to the University,” said President Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. “David Jones embodied the term ‘lifelong learner.’ He was curious about the unknown and was passionate about the study of history — particularly paleontology and archeology. This gift will ensure that future generations of students will have new and exciting opportunities to explore and discover those areas as well.”

While the gift is extraordinary, so, too, is the story of how David Jones came to know Augustana and why he chose to support the University through his foundation.

It all began about 20 years ago.

Adrien Hannus, Meet David Jones

David JonesIt all started in the late 1990s when Jones walked into Augustana’s Archeology Laboratory one afternoon and introduced himself to Dr. Adrien Hannus.

Jones, who was in his early 70s at the time, didn’t offer much background about himself. He said his interest in fossils and dinosaurs prompted him to visit the Lab.

Hannus, who serves as a professor of anthropology and director of the Archeology Lab, did exactly what anyone who knows him would expect him to do — he smiled and offered Jones a cup of tea. From there, the two sat down and began a good conversation.

That’s the thing about Hannus — he loves a good conversation.

Adrien HannusAn established scholar, internationally known anthropologist, and TV star (he’s appeared on PBS’ “Time Team America”), Hannus also has an intangible, quintessential ‘average Joe’ quality about him — a characteristic that makes him markedly approachable and easy to talk to.

With silver-streaked shoulder-length hair and his standard “uniform” of blue jeans and work boots, Hannus divides his time between the Archeology Lab (a building “guarded” by a life-size mammoth replica), field work and teaching — which he does on campus and at sites around the world, including the Thomsen Center Archeodome near Mitchell, South Dakota, and in the United Kingdom through Augustana’s exchange program with the University of Exeter.

Like Hannus, Jones enjoyed a good conversation, too. 

A native of California, he completed high school in Wayzata, Minnesota, and later studied business at the University of Minnesota. He spent the majority of his career owning and operating a farm management business, all the while passionate about the study of ancient history.

At the age of 37, he enrolled in a college course in geology, which gave way to a lifelong interest in paleontology. During his career as an amateur paleontologist, he attended conferences and seminars across the country and conducted field research in Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota. For several decades, he participated in Boy Scout summer camps at the Lewis & Clark Scout Camp, located on the Missouri River near Yankton, South Dakota (where he eventually built a home).

Lunch at Inca

Hannus said that after that initial meeting, Jones began stopping by the Archeology Lab about once a month when he wasn’t traveling to conferences and dig sites. Those visits eventually gave way to monthly lunches at Inca, a restaurant located a few blocks from campus.

Conversation during those visits and lunches always focused on topics the two were interested in — archeology and paleontology.

“He just wasn’t the kind of guy you asked a lot of questions about, Hannus said. “Paleontology and archeology are enormous subjects — we never ran out of things to talk about.”

A few years after their first lunch, Hannus was at work in the Lab when the mail was delivered, including an envelope from Jones.

Inside was a $5,700 check to the Archeology Lab from the David B. Jones Foundation.

“I was shocked,” Hannus said. “I didn’t even know he had a foundation.”

At their next lunch, Hannus thanked Jones for his gift and attempted to learn a bit more about his background — and how it came to be that he had a foundation in his name.

Jones, however, was more interested in discussing paleontology and archeology. So, they talked about paleontology and archeology.

A few years later, in 2007, Jones stopped by the Lab one afternoon to see if Hannus would be interested in having lunch.

Lynette Rossum, office manager for the Lab, told Jones that Hannus wasn’t in. She went on to say he would be out for a while, due to the fact he’d just had triple bypass heart surgery.

Jones nodded, went out to his truck, and came back in with a $6,000 check, made out to the Archeology Lab from David B. Jones.

“Hopefully this will have a therapeutic effect,” Jones said at the time.

Hannus did get better and eventually the two resumed their monthly lunches at Inca. Jones also began to attend meetings of the South Dakota Archaeological Society at Augustana and visited Augustana’s field school at the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village.

Over time, Jones talked more about his foundation and its mission to “support research in paleontology, encourage writing and publication of articles relating to paleontology, and to support educational programs and training for young and amateur fossil hunters.”

To achieve its mission, the Foundation provide grants to domestic nonprofit organizations to further “educational, research and charitable activities working in the science of paleontology who primarily promote those activities within the United States of America.”

The Foundation was supported solely by Jones, who donated income he earned through his farm management operations and investments.

The fact that Jones gave his fortune away to others only further emphasized his humble nature, Hannus said.

“You never would have known he was a multimillionaire. He never wanted to be recognized for his worth. He wanted to be known for what he was passionate about.”

— Dr. Adrien Hannus
Professor of Anthropology

As time went by, Jones and Hannus continued their monthly lunches at Inca, eventually talking about the possibility of creating an endowed chair in anthropology/archeology at Augustana

In 2013, while visiting colleagues at the University of Exeter in England, Hannus received a message that Jones had died while on a paleontology dig in Wyoming.

Three years later, Hannus received word from the David B. Jones Foundation of its decision to make a $1 million gift to Augustana.

Word of the gift, Hannus said, was both overwhelming and humbling.

“This gift will create an enduring legacy in David’s name and will honor his passion for paleontology and his excitement for scientific discovery,” said Hannus. “We are deeply grateful to the Foundation for this extraordinary gift.”

In honor of his many contributions to Augustana, the field of anthropology, and the spirit of research and discovery, Hannus will serve as the first David B. Jones Endowed Chair.

On a personal level, Hannus said his unexpected friendship with Jones is something he’ll always cherish.

“I guess the moral of the story is if someone wants to talk with you, take time to listen. You can learn so much just by listening to and talking with other people,” Hannus said. “It’s really what this field of anthropology is all about — the study of people.”

Kelly Sprecher
Director of Media Relations