By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Symbolically, the baton of leadership passed from Robert Khayat to Dan Jones Tuesday night at midnight.
When Jones began his duties early Wednesday morning by unpacking in his new office, he found that the “baton” was a golf putter left as a gift by his predecessor – perhaps a teasing reference to the 24/7/365 job he was taking on.
After placing some of his books and photos in his new offices, Jones spent much of the rest of the day making the rounds in the Lyceum, the campus’ administrative nerve center.
“He’s had a full schedule of meeting people,” said Sue Keiser, assistant to the chancellor.
Andy Mullins, executive assistant to the chancellor, said Jones “has hit the ground running.” One of his duties was a conference call with Institutions of Higher Learning officials.
Larry Sparks, the vice chancellor for Finance and Administration, briefed Jones on the university’s budget. Between such high-level doings he had to fit in the mundane duties of filling out paperwork that’s required for any new employee on the Oxford campus.
“There’s no question that he is running wide open addressing the needs of the university,” Mullins said, adding that Jones had arrived long before 8 a.m. “He’s not just getting his feet wet; he’s jumped in full force.”
As Ole Miss chancellor, Jones will continue weekly workdays at the university’s Medical Center campus in Jackson, where he was previously vice chancellor for health affairs. Jones will spend additional time there in his first weeks to ease the transition to new administrators.
Jones also has remaining obligations with the American Heart Association, which he recently served as president, and next week he’ll meet with the state’s congressional delegation in Washington.
Town-and-gown relations will also be one of Jones’ early focuses. He’ll attend today’s farewell reception for outgoing Mayor Richard Howorth and the Friday swearing-in of incoming Mayor Pat Patterson and the Board of Aldermen.
On Saturday, Jones will greet townsfolk at the campus portion of Saturday’s communitywide Independence Day celebration.
Beyond those duties, he plans to concentrate in coming weeks on learning names and hearing priorities of students, alumni, faculty and staff members.
Jones made one statement Wednesday that illustrated the challenge of following the highly respected Khayat in the chief executive post at Ole Miss.
As he placed a photo of himself and Khayat together on his bookshelf, Jones noted, “I’m chancellor now, but he’s The Chancellor. That’s just how it is.”