Alumnus Garry Jones: Education Pioneer

By Chris Shoemaker | June 23, 2015 | RSS

Alumnus Garry Jones: Education Pioneer
Full Sail University – an award-winning educational institution for those pursuing careers in the entertainment and media industry in areas including art and design; business, film and television; games, media and communications; music and recording; and web and technology. A university that is considered to be one of the pioneers in the use of technology in education and one of the best places in the world to study music, film, and game design.
Bluefield College alumnus Dr. Garry Jones in front of Full Sail University, the college he founded in Florida that today is one of the world’s educational leaders in entertainment, media, and the arts.


Alumnus Dr. Garry Jones, a pioneer in real-world education.


Alumni Director Mark Hipes (left) presents a Hall of Distinguished Graduates Award to alumnus Dr. Garry Jones.


How did it all get started, and what does a member of Bluefield College’s alumni have to do with the real-world education of students of entertainment, media and the arts at Full Sail University? Dr. Garry Jones, a 1974 Bluefield College graduate and president of Full Sail University.

A native of Christiansburg, Virginia, Dr. Jones came to Bluefield College in 1972 already with a passion for music and recording. Thanks to a Christmas gift of a phonograph at the age of 10, he became fascinated with the ability to play and control music. He started collecting and listening to vinyl 45 (RPM) records and taught himself to play the electric guitar. But music, he said, was not the only reason he chose to come to BC.


“I found Bluefield College very shortly after I had committed my heart to Christ,” said Dr. Jones, whose pastor encouraged him to attend Bluefield College. “Bluefield fulfilled two needs in my life. It provided not just a great spiritual home for me where I could learn more about God and my studies of the Bible, but it also prepared me with academics for a future that at the time was unimaginable. Every course rang true. Every professor was inspiring. I actually enjoyed all of my classes at Bluefield College, no matter what the subject matter.”


Dr. Jones studied religion and psychology at BC. He was active in the Baptist Student Union and was a member of the Christian Related Vocations Organization.


“For me, Bluefield was an overall fantastic experience,” said Dr. Jones, “the small town and small classrooms, where teachers became not just mentors, but friends outside of the academic environment. And, the teachers were very good. The campus was precious. It was an all-encompassing experience that did wonders for me.”


After earning an associate’s degree from BC in 1974, Dr. Jones attended Virginia Tech, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Soon after, Dr. Jones met Jon Phelps, a recording studio manager, who began to show Dr. Jones that working in a studio or with audio production could be more than just a hobby or a dream.


“This was a job I loved from the very inception of it,” said Dr. Jones about working in the recording studio. “I loved being in a world where I could work with artists, and it gave me a chance to marry two things I enjoyed – technology and music.”


Phelps, Dr. Jones recalls, decided in 1979 to start a program to train music-loving students how to work in a recording studio. In fact, he asked Dr. Jones to join him in creating the recording school. Little did they know the venture would someday become Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida.


“Full Sail began as a dream to create a place where people could learn how to take their passion for entertainment and turn it into a career they loved,” said Dr. Jones. “As the years go by, the dream continues to grow, and we are humbled by the success of our graduates, as well as the passion of our teachers, all of whom contribute to making this one of the most unique educational communities on the planet.”


What began as a school for music and sound more than 35 years ago is now one of the world’s educational leaders in entertainment, media, and the arts. Students at Full Sail study music and recording, art and design, film and television, game design, web development and technology, media and communication, sports media, and the business of the entertainment world. In fact, Full Sail offers 49 degree programs and has graduated more than 48,000 students.


In addition, Full Sail University has been recognized as one of the top five film schools in the country by UNleashed magazine, one of five best music programs in the country by Rolling Stone magazine, one of the top 25 graduate schools for game design by The Princeton Review, one of the top 10 new media schools in the country by Shift magazine, one of the top 25 music schools by The Hollywood Reporter, and the 2014 School/College of the Year by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges.


Dr. Jones began his venture at Full Sail as a recording arts instructor before later becoming a course director, director of education, director of career development, vice president of admissions, senior vice president, and then finally president in 1999. He has been recognized by the Recording Institute of America for technical and creative contributions to recording projects that have sold in excess of one million copies. He has also been named IT Leader of the Year by ITFlorida for his commitment to furthering the advancement of technology through education. But, these accolades, he says, are not his most significant accomplishments.


“Every day that I can make a positive difference in a person’s life – that is a great accomplishment .” said Dr. Jones. “Similarly, any day I can gain wisdom or be taught a life lesson by another is an important day. Mentorship is all around us if we open our eyes and see the great moments of life.”


Dr. Jones attributes his success to letting go and letting God take charge of his life. Allowing God to be a part of daily life or to partner with God in all of life’s endeavors, he said, “increases life’s gusto exponentially.” He also encourages students to “believe in themselves and to trust their instincts.” His success, he adds, was greatly enhanced by the foundation he gained at Bluefield College.


“After Dr. Olive reached out to me seven years ago sharing with me about current day BC, then I began to remember how precious Bluefield College was to me,” said Dr. Jones. “I encourage all graduates to look back and consider what a milestone, what a blessing, BC was. Bluefield College on that little hill in Virginia will always be a deep intrinsic part of my heart and life. So many lessons that I learned there were about the very subject of life. My favorite parts of my time there as a student were the gathering of life skills, learning the importance of and the goodness of heart, and recognizing the richness of blessings that abound.”


For his outstanding accomplishments, Dr. Jones recently received an honorary doctorate from Bluefield College and was later inducted into the BC Hall of Distinguished Graduates.




Media Contact

Chris Shoemaker, Assistant Professor, Communication