UAFS veteran Stacey Jones has died

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 6,266 views 

Stacey Jones, who recently retired as University of Arkansas at Fort Smith associate vice chancellor of campus and community events and managed the popular Season of Entertainment for 39 years, died Saturday (Oct. 8). He was 70.

Jones was active with the university and its predecessor institutions for almost 50 years, with most of those years spent helping connect the university with the community through concerts, theater, pageants, and other events. The Season of Entertainment series brought numerous Broadway productions to Fort Smith. Lucie Arnaz, Dizzy Gillespie, Patti LuPone, Steve Allen, Lawrence Welk, “Doc” Severinsen, and the Blue Man Group were some of the stars who performed in Fort Smith through the Series of Entertainment.

Jones spoke about the series in an April 2021 Talk Business & Politics story.

“The mission of that, quite frankly, always was to bring nationally touring programs to our community and at the same time, better opportunities to our students,” Jones said in the story, noting that at times there were more students performing on the stage than audience members watching. “Over the years with the Season of Entertainment, there were times at jazz concerts I would 600 to 700 people or higher in the audience. That’s almost unheard of for college programs. … Those kids deserve that, and they got great audiences. That was my motivation.”

Jones also noted the broad importance of arts to community and regional health.

“Performing arts and live arts are important to a community. They are important to the lifeblood of the community. You look around the country at cities that don’t have those, and I can tell you right now, they are missing a piece of the pie,” Jones said.

He also was widely known and well respected in state and national pageant communities. Jones worked in 1978 to convert the Miss Westark pageant into a preliminary competition for the Miss Arkansas pageant. The move also placed the pageant into the Miss American system which provided scholarships for the winners. Shawntell Smith, a Miss Westark pageant winner, would win the Miss America pageant in 1996.

UAFS Chancellor Dr. Terisa Riley sent the following statement Saturday (Oct. 8) to faculty and students.

“Today, I am writing to share the incredibly sad news that Stacey Jones passed away unexpectedly this morning. He was in his home and his beloved wife, Sheila, was with him.

“Many of you are aware that Stacey retired on September 30, 2022, from his position as the associate vice chancellor for university advancement. I felt incredibly lucky to see him on September 28 during our staff meeting. During that event I publicly shared how much his 47-year career at UAFS meant to the evolution of this university. Below, you will find the personal email I sent to him on September 20 when I learned of his retirement. Today, words seem insufficient to convey the loyalty, hard work, and pride he exhibited over the 50 years he was affiliated with Westark College and the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith. No one has been more supportive of the growth and evolution of UAFS than Stacey.

“While we did not get to host the big retirement party we planned, I pray that our good memories of an exceptional man will bring us all peace during this difficult time.”

Riley’s note to Jones was about working with him on a “big retirement party.”

“Whether they are business owners, former Miss. UAFS contestants, people who attended the Season of Entertainment, etc., they all say the same thing: Stacey Jones was a mentor and became my friend. Your legacy is one to be emulated by the rest of us who will continue to work hard to make this the best university in our region,” Riley said in her note to Jones.

Daren Bobb, news anchor at KFSM TV5 who worked with Jones for many years, said Jones’ work did much to help build UAFS.

“I have known Stacey for almost 38 years. Along with other events on campus, I emceed or co-emceed the Miss UAFS pageant for a number of years under Stacey’s guidance. The lives he touched with that event are too many to count,” Bobb noted in a statement provided to Talk Business & Politics. “He was one of the first I met when I moved here in 1984 and he has been a dear friend ever since. The college is a huge success today due in large part to Stacey and the work he did to promote it. The Season of Entertainment was remarkable each year. I will truly miss my friend.”

Michael Tilley, executive editor and a co-owner of Talk Business & Politics, also praised Jones’ commitment to community and students.

“Anyone who knew Stacey Jones knew he was authentic, sincere and focused on improving access for all to the arts. His death is indeed a loss for the university and this region, but we should reflect on the hundreds, if not thousands, of young lives he changed for the better. And in that reflection, let’s consider our opportunities to continue his generous spirit and contributions.”

Stacey Allen Jones, 70, of Fort Smith, Arkansas passed away in his home on October 8, 2022. Stacey was a true Fort Smith native born on October 16, 1951 to Robert and Lou Jones. Stacey survived by his wife of 46 years Sheila Jones, daughters Stacie Kohles and Amanda Echols, son-in-law Aubrey Echols, brother Sam Jones and his wife Linda Jones, niece Holly Raley and her husband Kevin Raley, niece Neile Pugh and her husband Kelly Pugh, 3 great nieces and 1 great nephew, and 4 grandchildren.

The visitation will be at Edwards Funeral Home on Wednesday, October 12, 2022 from 5-7pm. The rosary will be held at Immaculate Conception Church on Thursday, October 13, 2022 at noon, with the funeral service following at 1 pm.