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ATC student inspires others

January 17, 2010 - Arthur Jones, 84, is on track to earn a computer maintenance specialist certificate in March from Albany Technical College.  Remembering things isn’t as easy for Arthur Jones.  In order to succeed in his computer specialist studies at Albany Technical College, the 84-year-old Jones must work harder to recall important subject material.

“It’s rough,” admits Jones, who dropped out of school in the ninth grade to join the Navy as a 17-year-old in 1943 during World War II. “I have a hard time with recall. I can read and understand, but the power of recall gives me a problem. I use a lot of prayer when I study.”

Prayer has been a constant for Jones throughout his Albany Tech journey, which started in June 2005. As a way to motivate his late second wife, Ida Pearl, to go back to school and become a nurse, Jones went back to school himself to earn his GED.

In addition to his 59-year-old wife dying in April 2006 from a brain aneurysm, the road to a college certificate and possibly a college diploma has proven to be a long and challenging one for Jones. He spent a year taking adult literacy classes and started his first computer specialist-type certificate classes in the summer of ‘08.

“When I started this thing off, I thought this would be a couple of months and thought it’d be a piece of cake,” said Jones, who won the state Golden Eagle GED Student of the Year Award in October. “But it’s been a nice journey, and yet the struggle continues until I reach my objective. It hasn’t been without tears and frustration.”

Jones — who is 14 years older than the next oldest Albany Tech student — is nearing completion for a computer maintenance specialist certificate in March. However, if he decides to continue his education, Jones is more than halfway to completing a computer specialist-type diploma with 50 of the 90 credits completed. He’s taking only one class this quarter, microcomputer installation and maintenance.

“He’s passed the hardest portions,” said Albany Tech Sysco networking teacher Dan Johnson, who tutored Jones in the fall. “He’s an extremely hard worker. He showed up on time, and through hard work he was able to subnet simple networks.”

A retired postal worker since 1989 who moved to Albany from New Jersey during that same year, Jones has impressed many people at Albany Tech with his persistence and drive.

“He brings more maturity and commitment to his studies than most students a quarter of his age,” said Shirley Armstrong, Albany Tech’s dean of Academic Affairs. “He’s a very pleasant gentleman, but he’s not a pushover at all. He knows what he wants and goes after it.”

Computer Information Systems instructor Tim Edwards has also been touched by Jones’ determination and has no doubt he will finish.

“He won’t stop until he gets it and will ask questions until he gets it,” Edwards said. “He’s an inspiration to a lot of our younger students, even to those that are struggling and feeling like they can’t make it. He gives them an encouraging word and tells them there’s no easy road. (He says), ‘You (have to) know the material to be able to run a computer’.”

Lorenzo Brown is one of those “younger” students who has been motivated by Jones’ efforts. Brown, 52, had never met Jones before but was impressed enough to introduce himself when he stumbled upon Jones being photographed by The Herald.

“(He illustrates) that it’s never too late to finish your education; just like the motto: ‘A mind is a terrible thing to waste’,” said Brown, a biomedical technology student. “It’s a pleasure (to meet him), and I hope it encourages younger people to decide to pursue education. And, that gangs are not the way of life; education is the way to succeed in life.”

Besides encouraging his late wife, being an example to others was one of the main reasons Jones returned to school.

“My basic motivation to go back to school was to be an example for my children, grandchildren and others in the neighborhood, meaning all the children I see running around the street that have no ambition and take what is not theirs,” said Jones, who has five children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. “I’m doing this as motivation and to set an example. I’m not doing this to get a job.”

Jones said returning to school requires an unwavering commitment.

“I put a lot of time into it,” said Jones, who wears hearing aids in both ears. “I sometimes stay up until 2 in the morning. I don’t want to just pass. I don’t have to get 100, but an 85 is just fine. I get a lot of help from students and teachers.”

When he isn’t receiving help from others, Jones shares his growing knowledge of computers with people in need.

“I work on a lot of computers in my shed, and what got me in the class is that I wanted to learn more about computers,” said Jones, who served as a minesweeper and radio operator in Japan during his military service. “I fix computers from whoever gives them to me and give them away. I have four or five now, and I’m ready to give them away. They have to get their own monitors because I don’t have any more.”

When one of Jones’ friends suggested to him that he was foolish to give away computers that he had worked hard to fix, Jones shrugged off the critique.

“I tell him God gave me the gift to fix them, and when I fix them I can give them away and share my gift with other people,” said Jones, who attends Albany’s Emanuel Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Albany Tech President Anthony Parker said Jones exemplifies his generation’s work ethic and devotion.

“Mr. Jones is an inspiration to every one of us on the Albany Tech campus,” Parker said. “To return to the classroom more than six decades after dropping out of school to risk his life in World War II, what a shining example he is to anyone interested in fulfilling their academic dreams.”

Although his class load has decreased in recent quarters because he decided to pursue a certificate instead of a diploma as computer maintenance specialist, Jones said he eagerly awaits the day he’ll complete his studies.

“It’s going to feel like a lot of weight off my back, a burden lifted,” he said. “But I might go back to school when it’s all done. I have a lot of interest in genealogy and would have to go to Albany State for that.”

Ethan Fowler

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