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Q&A: Bruce Jones


Tell us a little about yourself.

I live on Cape Cod and recruit students in New England and the southeast and southern regions of the country. Three of my four kids (and all of my grandkids) live in Washington State. My oldest, born in a Walla Walla hospital during semester break of my senior year at Whitman, is now an ER doc at that same hospital, and his wife reads for Whitman’s admission office. Talk about coming full circle.

You attended Whitman in the 1960s. What’s different about the Whitman experience today?

Most students who attend Whitman today first visit the campus. I never saw Whitman before I arrived at the now-defunct train depot on Second Avenue. My folks didn’t see it until the day I graduated. Much like today, Whitman is a wonderful intellectual place full of faculty and classmates who have remained friends for life. In the ’60s it was a regional college with male professors wearing suits and lecturing. It was barely diverse, and more conservative than today. The campus, although I loved it, was not the showplace it is now. Today Whitman is a national college, and about 23 percent of this year’s entering class is students of color. The professors are demographically more representative of the student body, dress more casually, and many classes are discussion-based. Students are on a first-name basis with their favorite professors and share a cup of coffee with them. What hasn’t changed: Whitman continues its tradition of academic rigor in the context of a collaborative, loyal community.

What do you love most about your job?

I love everything about my work: wonderful, competent colleagues, wonderful campus environment, wonderful Walla Walla (not to mention the wine and produce). This concludes my fifth year with Whitman after a 37-year career as a public school educator in Connecticut, California and Massachusetts, so I’ve been working with teenagers forever. I’ve never worked so many hours in my life, and the four months of travel can be exhausting, but it’s relatively easy duty working with A and B students who want to please me.

What is one of your most memorable recruiting experiences?

One of my favorite New England students (let’s call her “Esta”) was a cheerleader from suburban New York City. Esta interviewed with me early one December. She was clearly bright, but I got a kick out of the fact that she and one of her friends, never the cheerleader types, decided they could do a good job and ended up in those roles. When I eventually read her application, it knocked my socks off — stunningly talented student and multiple involvements. I’m sure she got fat envelopes from the Ivies, but she chose Whitman. She has thrived, is active in everything, and will probably graduate with honors next year. We ran into each other at the Walla Walla airport during spring break this year — it made my day.

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