Mine has been the honor to work at the side of Dan Jones for the past decade. In doing so, I have been the grateful daily beneficiary of Dan’s quick wit and even bigger heart. Dan’s was a life of service, hard work and integrity, and any who had the good fortune to interact with him profited from the culmination of these characteristics. Dan Jones was one of a kind — a man whose well-known contributions to our community were ultimately secondary to the contributions he made to the lives of countless individuals over the course of a life truly well-lived.
Dan’s career began as a tank company captain in the Army. It was while serving in the military that he first blended his love for country with his passion for teaching when he was asked to lecture about the U.S. Constitution to foreign troops. After his military service, Dan began teaching American government at Granite High School while he completed his Ph.D. He would continue to teach for more than 55 years —influencing thousands of students at Utah State University and the University of Utah and receiving numerous teaching awards. So often when people hear that I work with Dan, they smile and tell me a story of how Dan’s passion for teaching and genuine concern for them as an individual positively impacted their lives.
In 1959, Dan conducted his first survey, a poll for the Salt Lake City mayoral contest between the incumbent J. Bracken Lee and Bruce Jenkins. For almost 60 years after that, Dan would consult daily with civic and business leaders from around the world. I suspect history will remember Dan Jones as one of the century’s pre-eminent pollsters, but it was his one-on-one interactions with young people, teaching the role of government and influencing students’ commitment to civic service that Dan loved most. For 10 years, I witnessed a seemingly endless stream of current and past students come through Dan’s office seeking his counsel for professional or personal decisions.
Shortly after I started to work with him, people would ask me if Dan — then in his mid-70s — ever came into the office. My response would always be laughter; Dan never seemed to miss a day of work. One morning, I remember him arriving late to work apologetically. He had been up since 5 a.m. with his son, Derek, shoveling the snow on his neighbors’ driveways. At the time, he was in his 80s. I just wanted to hug him.
Dan cared enormously about honorable civic participation. While most know that he built a successful and prominent business, money was never his motivation. I witnessed this firsthand during the negotiations to sell his company. For most organizations, the purchase price would be the primary objective. But for Dan, his chief objective was to ensure commitments that his firm would never be associated with any activity that would compromise the ethical standards on which he built his business — a fact that is doubly impressive knowing the often-cutthroat world of public polling. For 10 years after that sale, I continued to witness his integrity in the relentless manner Dan collected and analyzed data to ensure accurate information was being disseminated to guide public discourse. Even after he was transitioned to an assisted living center a few months prior to his passing, we would still talk almost daily to review data from various studies.2 comments on this story
Dan’s life of service, hard work and integrity is illuminated in the stories and history above. But as much as I have learned and grown from what he modeled day in and day out, the biggest impact Dan had on my life — and in the lives of countless others — was the way in which he appreciated and took time for me as an individual. My interactions with him were always marked by abiding sincerity; throughout our conversations he searched for what he could offer me as a colleague and as a friend. Dan lived a life of giving in its purest sense; the kind of giving that will continue to inspire generations to come. Dan Jones was the truest of public servants.