Donald Akers Jones, 90, beloved and treasured husband, father, grandfather and friend, and retired U-M math professor, died in his home in Corvallis, Oregon, on June 25.
Don was born in Topeka, Kansas, and his early life followed his father’s job on the Santa Fe Rail, before attending high school in Fort Madison, Iowa, where he graduated from Fort Madison High School in 1948. Don and sister, Ilene, shared a deep love of trains and the Santa Fe and enjoyed train vacations together in their later years.
Don enrolled at Iowa State University in engineering but transferred into math (probability and statistics). He graduated in 1952 from Iowa State as a distinguished military student, was tendered a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army and was shipped out in 1952 to Korea as the truce was signed. As a forward observer with the 34th Infantry (National Guard) Division, he began using his natural abilities in math to guide others.
After being honorably discharged in September 1954, Don returned from Korea and filled the year working at Northwestern Mutual Life before enrolling in graduate school at the University of Iowa. On Nov. 21, 1956, he married Shireen Murray in Burlington, Iowa. Don earned his Ph.D. in probability and statistics in 1959.
He credited his adviser, Professor Hogg, for opening many doors, including his position as a professor of math at the University of Michigan in 1959. Like many professors, Don had side gigs as an actuarial expert while in Ann Arbor. These included U-M-based actuarial firm of Fisher, Nesbitt, Mayerson and Jones, and Ann Arbor Actuaries Inc., which he started in the 1970s and was joined by his former student, lifelong friend Dale Griffin.
In the 1980s he collaborated with Newt Bowers, Hans Gerber, Cecil Nesbitt and James Hickman to create the definitive textbook for actuarial math. He continued with this work until his retirement from U-M in 1989.
Don moved to Corvallis, Oregon, in 1990 and joined the Oregon State University faculty as an actuarial math professor where he worked until his retirement in 1998. In Corvallis, he met Sheryl at a community dance and they were married Sept. 4, 1993. Together they shared progressive political passion, enjoyed seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, travel, concerts in the park and visits with Sheryl’s children, Beth Schwartz (Owen O’Malley) and David Schwartz, and grandchildren Laurel, Hazen, Miles and Colin O’Malley.
A consummate educator, Don found joy throughout his life by using his strengths to give back to the community.
He was predeceased by his parents, Gomer David Jones and Dorothy Alice (Akers) Jones, and his sister, Ruth Ilene (Jones) Ecord. He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Sheryl Bernard; four children, Melonie Buckingham, Murray (Genia Hollander) Jones, Gordon (Lynne nee Ziskind) Jones and Jennifer (Jay) Jolliffe; grandchildren Kimberley, Kristina and Colleen Buckingham, and Meghan, Claire and Grace Jolliffe; and beloved nieces and nephews.
No services are planned at this time. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Gomer D. Jones Diesel Technology Fund, Washburn University Foundation, 1729 MacVicar Ave., Topeka, Kansas, 66604.
— Submitted by the family of Donald Jones