As part of our Coffee Chat series, a Capstone employee will be interviewed each month and featured in our monthly newsletter, The Erudite. For the June issue, the editors of The Erudite sat down with Jeff Jones.
Jeff has been in the student housing P3 industry for over 30 years, first joining Capstone in 1991. He enjoys spending time with his family – including 4 children and 7 grandchildren and one on the way – and admits he has too many things he enjoys doing and not enough time do them all, which include gardening, fishing and listening to blue grass music. Even after 30 years in the industry he continues to be energized by the company he has helped build, its energetic team, and the bustling colleges campuses that he gets to experience in his work.
Jeff Jones, Principal
University of Alabama, BA, American Studies – English and Psychology, 1978
Alabama School of Law, JD, 1981
Where are you from originally? I was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma which is where my dad was stationed when he was in the Army. Not long after I was born we moved to Huntsville, Alabama and that is where I grew up.
What drew you to attend the University of Alabama? My family were pretty solid Alabama fans. I don’t remember having a lot the deliberations about where I wanted to go, I was always pretty focused on going to the University of Alabama as I had a number of friends and family members who had gone to UA.
Did you live on-campus? Yes, I lived on-campus for the first year of my undergrad. I lived in Somerville Hall, one of the older dorms at the University that I believe is still in use as a residence hall. I do not believe it was air conditioned, I remember I had a fan. It was made of concrete construction and had brick on the exterior. It was a 3-story walk-up style and I remember the laundry was in the dark basement. The units were designed in a cluster where you would walk up a stairwell and there was a landing at each floor level and then 3 or 4 rooms were accessed off of that landing. Most of the bedrooms were double occupancy; I had a roommate who was a friend of mine from high school.
After my first year at UA, I decided to move off-campus. I was pretty anxious to have some privacy. So, I moved into a little converted, garage-like studio apartment that was in the back yard of someone’s house located not too far from campus. After that semester, I moved to another garage apartment of the home immediately next door. I lived there for at least 2 years, until I graduated and went to law school. Off and on during that time, I had a roommate to help make everything a little more affordable.
Did you work during college? I did, I had a variety of jobs on-campus, and worked one summer in Washington DC for the congressman from my district in North Alabama. That job was a carry-over from an academic internship during a mini-mester in May. That was a great experience for me. A lot of my jobs during the academic years were through various University departments. I was with the Impact Program and was an academic advisor to lower-division students. I did some work with the orientation group during the summer working with new freshman students.
After that, my entrepreneurial streak kicked in and I bought a bunch of dorm-sized refrigerators. I had about 80 refrigerators at one point in time, and I would lease those in mostly the women’s dorms. It was a great way to meet new people – a bit of a business venture and a social experiment for me. I had the refrigerator rental business for about 4 years, charging something like $25/semester for a rental. It was a good bit of work though at the beginning and end of the semester, having to service and clean the refrigerators, and then pickup and deliver them. Did you ever find yourself storing a bunch of refrigerators? Oh yeah! So, after the garage apartment I was living in I moved to a 3-bedroom house with a garage which was perfect, it allowed me the space to store and service the refrigerators as I needed to.
Next, I decided to contract with a bakery in Birmingham to bake Valentine cakes. So, I marketed and sold Valentine’s cakes to the sororities, pitching to them that they should order a cake for their little sister or a boyfriend. I sold about 200 valentine cakes each Valentine’s day. I’d go and pick them up in Birmingham and bring them back down to the sorority house in Tuscaloosa each year.
While pursuing my law degree I worked as a law clerk in Tuscaloosa. Then, after my first year of law school I took a year off and worked in a presidential campaign. I was assigned to organize areas in Alabama, West Virginia, and about 30 counties in west Texas. That Summer, I also worked for a little bit in the White House. It was a pretty interesting year for sure.
What was your favorite class from college? I really enjoyed college, particularly the first 3 years. I was a little less academically-focused my senior year, because I knew I was going to law school and I had the LSAT score that I needed, so I probably played more golf during my senior year. I loved my political science classes and my psychology classes. I realized that if I had a really great professor then I really enjoyed the class – regardless of the subject matter.
Is there a book that you are reading right now? I’m currently about half way through the second volume of a wonderful 3-part biography on Teddy Roosevelt, written by Edmund Morris. I’ve always had a lot of interest and admiration for Teddy Roosevelt.
Recently, our family has gravitated towards eating healthy food and organic gardening. My daughter, Emily, recommended the book Dirty Life to me, which is an autobiographical story of a young woman who was living in New York as a freelance writer. She interviews a man who was an organic farmer in Pennsylvania. They marry and the story is about them, and the purchasing and operation for the past 13 years or so of their farm and how they created an impressive enterprise through their organic, sustainable farming, that feeds a large community.
I also like bluegrass music so I have a book up at my cabin called Kentucky Traveler that’s an autobiography of Ricky Scaggs, one of my favorite bluegrass artists.
What do you do in your spare time? Most of my spare time is spent with family, we have 4 children and 7 grandchildren and one more on the way. So, we keep ourselves fairly actively involved with family activities. Beyond that, I have more hobbies than I have time for. If I have ½ day or a day and a half on the weekend, that’s a luxury and I spend it up on my farm and cabin where I fish, work on the property and garden, or have the occasional dove hunt. I also love to play golf in the late afternoon or evening, if I can find an hour or two to play a round of golf and walk the course for exercise and relaxation. I have too many things I enjoy doing and not enough time do them all.
You’ve been in the student housing development business for 31 years, so what do you enjoy most about working on college campuses? College and university campuses are like towns or cities unto themselves with such a variety of people, places and activities going on – particularly the larger schools. So, there’s a lot of energy, activities and people who have a common goal and purpose and I like to see how they work towards those with great collaboration. The history of each campus along with its cultural, athletic, educational and social activities on and in and around the campus all are what make campuses very energizing and interesting. I like that energy, activity and dynamism together with being able to then plug into those campuses to help the college or university achieve their long-term goals that are important to their students and that we can help them accomplish. You feel like you are actually doing something that makes a difference to an institution and also to tens of thousands of students who will come through that campus and its housing that we may have been a part of.
If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? If I could manufacture a pretty good day, it would be a trip with my wife and family to England/ Scotland/ Ireland where in one day I could pack in 5 of my favorite activities. In that day, I would fly fish in the early morning in a beautiful stream, shoot grouse on a field, play golf on a historic golf course along the Irish sea and then spend a fun evening in an Irish/Scottish village exploring the local history and architecture, inns and pubs, and have a great dinner and a bit of antiquing with my wife, Liz. This would encompass many of my familial interests and hobbies. Ultimately, I would love to spend a summer doing all of these activities – this kind of trip is a bucket list item for my retirement.
What energizes you most about CDP? The opportunity to work with really good, smart, thoughtful and dedicated people. It is our team that we have been able to assemble, that enjoys what we do and finds our work fulfilling and satisfying – at least 90% of the time. I think it is the commonality and the bond that we have around our mission and goals and in the way that we approach our work. Further, the integrity, ethics and perseverance that we try to bring to our work to realize the opportunities and overcome the various challenges that we encounter on our projects. All of this is mentally stimulating and challenging and just keeps you on your toes constantly as you try to maintain multiple initiatives and objectives. It’s never been a dull moment for my 31 years. It’s very fulfilling to look back to understand what it took to go from point A to Z at the end of a project. As with most undertakings that are worthwhile, there’s that 10% of frustration and aggravation along the way, when things don’t go as planned, but we always persevere, and that’s very gratifying to me.