JLR Multicultural Center Named to Honor an Inspirational Family

September 23, 2022 By Melodie Little
Angela Jones' family and EWU staff in front of the new sign.
The EWU community got to meet some of the family members who inspired Angela Jones' success and her vision of naming the JLR Multicultural Center. From the left, Michael and Dea Jones (her aunt and uncle), President McMahan, Angela Jones, and Don Jones (her son), James Jones (her father), Terry Jones (her mother), and Alexis Nicholson (her niece).

An Eastern Washington University center that plays a critical role in supporting students from diverse cultures is getting a new name.

The JLR Multicultural Center name honors the Jones, Lowery, Limena and Ramos families who began their lives in abject poverty and through education, resilience and determination paved the way to success for future generations ― including their granddaughter, alumna Angela Jones, who made the generous naming gift on behalf of her family.

Naming the center connects multiple dots for Jones, who earned a Master of Science in Communication Studies from EWU in 2005 while working at the university in what she humorously refers to as “two tours of duty” that spanned 10 years. 

Jones’ helped to start the Multicultural Center while working on campus – knowing firsthand how it could help to build community and foster student success. She recalls her own experiences as an undergraduate student of color, feeling homesick and displaced, and the role that ethnic studies and multicultural offices played in helping her succeed.

“To have a space where you can go and just decompress and have comraderie and good food and laughter and learning was really crucial to my success as a student. So, it was really important to me that Eastern have a space like that,” explains Jones, who holds a law degree and is director of the Washington State Initiative for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

While working at EWU, Jones served as assistant director of transfer relations, director of alumni relations, president’s chief of staff, vice president for University Advancement and vice president for Student Affairs. 

Her accomplishments were many and even included revising the EWU “Fight Song” in 2001 to include the chant “E-A-S-T-E-R-N. Eastern Eagles. Go. Fight. Win.” Above and beyond the spirited “Fight Song” revision, Jones’ work to establish the Multicultural Center has positively impacted thousands of students.

The Center, which first opened in 2017 in Showalter Hall, has blossomed into a vibrant hub that now serves as a home away from home 3,500 students each year. Students are served through programs offered at the center, now located in the trendy, renovated PUB, and at meetings, resource tables and workshops requested inside and outside of classrooms.

Vanessa Delgado, director of Student Equity and Inclusion Services for EWU’s Multicultural and Pride centers, says it feels like destiny that the center will now reflect the name of Jones and her family members.

“When Dr. Jones worked at EWU she tirelessly centered the voices of students of color and was instrumental in the establishment of the center,” says Delgado, who believes the family’s powerful narrative will inspire future generations of Eagles. 

“Our students share the determination and resilience of the Jones family. They show up every day in pursuit of an education that will impact not only themselves but future generations,” Delgado says.

The powerful family story behind the JLR Multicultural Center spans generations and includes Jones’ parents. Her mom, Terry, grew up in the countryside of the Philippines, one of 16 siblings who had to, at times, share her shoes with the other kids. Jones’ father, James, was raised in a 2-bedroom shotgun home in Arkansas, as the oldest of nine siblings. Both, Jones says, stressed the importance of success in school.

“There was just a lot they didn’t have. Their big thing was that education was going to be the way that they moved things forward for the next generation,” Jones says.

While Jones was growing up, her father served in the U.S. Navy. After retiring from a military service career, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees to achieve his goal of becoming a middle school counselor. 

As Jones pursued her degrees, she recalls that her dad was “always right ahead of me” in completing his own. For her part, Jones earned her bachelor’s from WSU, before completing a master’s at EWU. She later completed a Juris Doctor degree from Gonzaga University’s School of Law.

When Jones looks back on her work to make the multicultural center a reality, she recalls the moment when the inspiration for her naming gift struck: “At the time I thought, ‘One day I’m going to name that place.’ That one day is now here.”