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Philosophy and religion faculty members mourn passing of Mike Jones

Faculty members in WCU’s Department of Philosophy and Religion are mourning the recent passing of Michael Paul Jones, who formerly served as chair of the university’s philosophy and religion program for 17 years.

Jones also was the driving force behind the development of a philosophy major at WCU in 1990, said James M. McLachlan, current professor in the department.

Jones joined the WCU faculty around 1973 after holding temporary positions at the University of Northern Arizona and University of South Carolina, McLachlan said. “Mike Jones was the first philosopher at Western Carolina University and built the program,” McLachlan said. “At that time, there was no department, but an ‘associated area’ of philosophy and religion.”

In addition to his influence in the academic area of philosophy and religion, Jones was the first director of WCU’s honors program years before the program was elevated to “college” status, said Brian Railsback, WCU professor of English and former dean of the Honors College. “Really, Mike was instrumental in bringing the whole concept of ‘honors’ to WCU,” Railsback said.

Raised in Indiana, Jones studied engineering at Purdue University and worked as an engineer in the defense industry in Los Angeles for a time, McLachlan said. “Eventually, he decided this was not how he wanted to spend the rest of his life, and after a stint studying philosophy at Wabash College, he entered the doctoral program in philosophy at the University of Texas,” McLachlan said.

“I will always remember Mike when he returned from a particularly frustrating meeting,” he said. “The top of his head was red and his eyes bulged as he would relate the whole thing to (wife) Carrie and me. I always remember his ironic smile given with a sideways glance and a laugh. I miss him.”

Jones was laid to rest beside his wife in Fairview Memorial Cemetery in Sylva.

– Contributed information

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