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Dream Catcher

Greg Jones Joins Duke’s Global Team
With a strong record of innovative leadership as dean of the Divinity School, L. Gregory Jones has been called to position Duke University’s global strategy.

the job offer came, the Joneses knew they should accept. From the beginning, the new dean began laying the groundwork for programs to support Christian leaders, including Courage to Serve, about pastors of rural churches, and Pulpit & Pew, a research project that focused on pastoral leadership.

He also crossed disciplinary and denominational lines. The Divinity School eventually added an Anglican Episcopal House of Studies, a Hispanic House of Studies, and a chair in Catholic theology to complement the Baptist House of Studies and Office of Black Church Studies that had been developed years earlier.

All the while, Jones both practiced and preached risk taking. When he decided to pursue an addition to the Divinity School as part of the Campaign for Duke, some worried that the bricks and mortar would come at the expense of student financial aid, another critical need.

“That was a real gut check,” says Jones, who had said support for students was a top priority. “But we were out of space.” Ultimately, the school raised enough money for the building and exceeded its goals for supporting scholarships. In retrospect, says Jones, the addition “is a crucial sign of what it means for the Divinity School to have a continued vibrant presence in the university. 

Now Jones takes on a new challenge. As Duke University’s chief global strategist, his job is to advance and coordinate the university’s international engagement. That means, in part, finding common ground among faculty members, students, and administrators in dozens of schools and departments with often disparate engagements with other countries.

President Brodhead says Jones, who remains a divinity professor and a leader at Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, possesses the right mix of experience and understanding to help Duke achieve more coherence.

“Greg has an almost unique ability to compute and articulate the values of the university,” Brodhead says. “He understands the interests of the different parts of Duke and how they can come together in high-level agreement.”

Just three days after presiding over the Divinity School’s 2010 Closing Convocation in April, Jones flew to Kunshan, China, to meet with municipal and educational leaders. Duke University’s China initiative includes a 200-acre campus in Kunshan, the first phase of which will be completed in December 2011, and collaborative programs with Shanghai Jiao Tong University in Shanghai.

Duke’s Fuqua School of Business will lead the first phase of the project, including an executive MBA and a master of management studies program. Fuqua Dean Blair Sheppard says that Jones brings a rare combination of gifts to the university’s global strategy. “He is driven, but wise; smart, but humble; a colleague, but a leader; trusted, but able to make the difficult decision,” says Sheppard, “and he loves Duke.”

Jones says his work with the Duke- Kunshan campus has important similarities to what he’s been doing for the last 13 years.

“As with work we’ve done in Africa, we’re still thinking about building institutions and developing new ways of teaching, learning, and research to address specific challenges and opportunities in other cultural contexts,” he says.

He is excited by the ways this work connects with his early scholarship. In fact, he’s pursuing the same end, or telos, as Jones often puts it, that captured his imagination in high school and later fueled his dissertation: pushing people to reflect deeply on their work, develop wise judgment, and hold themselves to the highest moral, ethical, and intellectual standards.

“My theological work—whether about formation and transformation, or habits of interpretation and virtue, or forgiveness, or leadership—has been about issues of education and how we form people of character and wisdom to exercise significant leadership,” he says. “I’m still thinking about the larger horizons and purposes of education and formation.”