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Judge John Jones

Andrew Lebowitz '24

On Friday, September 16, 2022, the Mercersburg community witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime event: the installation of Quentin McDowell as the school’s eighth head of school. Students, faculty, staff, parents, and members of the Board of Regents were introduced to the ceremony’s main speaker, Hon. John Jones ‘73.

Since graduating from Mercersburg, Jones has attended Dickinson-Law School and been named one of its “top 25 most influential graduates.” In 2002, Jones was appointed by President George Bush to be the District Judge for the middle district of PA.

Jones has spoken on two other occasions at Mercersburg Academy, once at commencement in 2006 and next as the 2009 Cum Laude speaker. For the Induction, Judge Jones was an extremely easy pick. “Judge Jones is an exceptionally dedicated and decorated Mercersburg Academy alum that I have known for many years,” says McDowell. “He has served as an important mentor for me during my time here, particularly as I moved into elevated administrative roles. Judge Jones is also in academia himself as the newly appointed president of Dickinson College, which only added to the appeal of having him speak at this important ceremony for our school.”

Board of Regents member Tom Hadzor ‘72, who introduced Jones at the installation, said “A federal judge hopes to have one monumental case during his or her tenure, John had two.”

Jones was the deciding judge for Blair v. Shippensburg, a case in which a student sued the school to stop enforcing a speech code. He ruled in favor of the student and issued an order for less restriction of free speech. Another important ruling was Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, in which Jones sided against the school boards required teaching of “intelligent design” in the Dover public school, calling it an unconstitutional breach of the establishment clause. Lastly, in Whitewood v. Wolf, Jones reversed Pennsylvania’s legislative prohibition of same-sex marriage.

During his speech, Jones praised McDowell: “Quentin brings humility, joy and an essential optimism to everything he does. It is those who lead with passion, sincerity, and focus who will achieve greatness, Quentin McDowell my friend, possesses these traits in abundance.”

With the final words of his speech, Jones celebrated the new head of school and looked towards the future: “Let me echo the high praise from Quentin's former boss and predecessor now. Our new head of school has all the tools that will lead him to greatness as Mercersburg's eighth head of school. I cannot wait to see all the success that he achieves in the years ahead as well as the impact he will have on so many of you and so many young lives. Those who attend this phenomenal school will have the great good fortune to experience an exemplary role model and truly inspirational leader. Congratulations and Godspeed my friend.”

“I thought Judge Jones did a wonderful job with his remarks and, if I had to pick what I thought was the most impactful, I would say that I greatly appreciated the way he wove the history and historical figures of Mercersburg Academy into his speech. The acknowledgment of the dedication and determination of those that have come before us is really important to me” stated McDowell. Emma Dilalla ‘24 said “He projected a lot of love for McDowell and for the school. Judge Jones knew five out of the eight heads of schools, and he believed McDowell fit the characteristics of all of them.”

History department chair Allison Stephens’ Advanced Studies: United States History class had the chance to hear Jones’ thoughts on democracy prior to his address to the school. “He explained his overall career. This made me develop a further understanding of the legislative branch and the balances the system holds. What stood out most to me was his approach on how people latch onto public opinion too easily. It worried him how many people follow different political types without further questioning,” says Ruby Shang ‘24.

“It was important to me to take advantage of the opportunity to meet with Judge Jones,” said Stephens. “The students are just now starting to learn the principles of the constitution and the reasoning behind its structure. In this hyper political time, having Jones talk about the need for non-partisanship on the bench was particularly salient. I hope that we will be able to have him return to campus later in the year.”

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