MILLIGAN COLLEGE ––Donald R. Jeanes, the 14th president of Milligan College, was remembered by those who knew him Monday for his quiet and humble demeanor, placing the college on firm financial ground and positively influencing those around him.
Jeanes, 66, died of an apparent heart attack early Monday morning. He served as president of Milligan from Oct. 1997 until his retirement in July 2011. He was named chancellor of the college upon his retirement, a position he still held.
Bill Greer succeeded Jeanes as president.
Speaking Monday by phone while riding back from Ohio, where he was with others doing fundraising and meeting with churches that support the college, Greer remembered Jeanes as a serious mentor who was very kind and often funny.
“Most people regarded Don as a pretty serious, all-business kind of guy,” Greer said. “But he had a streak in him of mischief and a sense of humor that not everybody got to see.”
Greer recalled a time when he and Jeanes, as president, filled up a fellow professor’s office with a bunch of paper and other things as a prank.
“So we had a fun time with him,” Greer said of Jeanes. “You knew that he was just a fun guy deep down. But he was all business. He could be a serious guy and just a top, top administrator.”
Enrollment at Milligan grew significantly during Jeanes’ tenure. Many new buildings were also built, including the massive Gregory Center for the Liberal Arts. His financial acumen helped establish a health endowment for Milligan and made one of the school’s most recent fundraising campaigns finish $3 million over goal.
“I will miss having him to call, because I could call him any time and he understood what it meant to be president of Milligan and the challenges you face as well as the choices you face,” Greer said.
The college arranged a memorial prayer service at the school’s iconic Seeger Memorial Chapel for just after noon Monday. Students, staff and faculty who could make it attended the sombr event.
Mark Fox, vice president for student development at Milligan, said in an interview shortly before the service that Jeanes hired him for that position in 1998, one year after he became president.
“For me the thing that I always remember about Don is the way he went about his business and carried on his business was in a very quiet humble manner,” Fox said. “He was truly a humble person, and had a lot of reason not to be as he was a very successful in his career and his work.”
But beyond the work he did as president of the 146-year-old Christian college, Fox said Jeanes and his wife Clarinda were influential on a personal level for them as well as many others.
“He and his wife Clarinda set a great example for my wife and I and really a great example for the kids here as well,” Fox said.
Colin Blowers, a senior majoring in political science and humanities, said Jeanes was definitely someone to emulate.
“He wasn’t an extremely expressive guy, you know, he was not some loud person,” Blowers said. “He was just a quiet man who represented Milligan’s, you know, ideal, which is creating servant leaders. He was someone who cared very, very deeply about us and about this place.”
Nathan Jenkins is a Milligan alumnus who runs a financial planning company in Johnson City. He enrolled at Milligan the same semester Jeanes became president. He was among those who attended Monday’s prayer service at Seeger.
Jenkins, who played basketball, remembered the Jeaneses sitting in the stands with other fans sporting orange vests during basketball games. He smiled as he recalled the memory.
“He was a very good man,” Jenkins said. “If we could take some of the attributes that he lived out daily in his life and apply them to our own, we’d all be better off.”
Besides being president of Milligan, Jeanes served on the boards of Christian Missionary Fellowship; the Christian Church Foundation for the Handicapped; Mountain States Health Alliance; Elders of First Christian Church; Johnson City and the State of Franklin Savings Bank. He was a member of the Johnson City Rotary Club, having served as president in 2000-2001. He also served as a volunteer chaplain at the Johnson City Medical Center for a number of years.
Dennis Vonderfecht, president and CEO of MSHA, released a statement on Jeanes’ death.
“Throughout his esteemed career, Don has always maintained a passion for ministry, and he never stopped serving in the volunteer chaplain role that he began two decades ago,” Vonderfecht said. “Through his example in both leadership and service, Don leaves behind a legacy of great character and integrity. I am grateful for the mark that he has left on MSHA and will dearly miss his friendship.”
A native of Georgia, Jeanes was a 1968 magna cum laude graduate of Milligan College. After graduation, he served as director of financial aid and assistant to the business manager at Milligan while attending Emmanuel Christian Seminary. In 1972, he received his master of divinity degree, with honors, from Emmanuel Christian Seminary.
Jeanes joined the faculty at Atlanta Christian College, where he taught Bible and humanities and administered the student financial aid program for six years. In 1978 he was named administrative vice president of the college, where he served until 1984. During this time he did doctoral coursework at Emory University.
An ordained minister, Jeanes served as associate minister and operations manager at First Christian Church in Johnson City from 1984 to 1986. He then was called to serve as senior minister of Spring Branch Christian Church in Houston, Texas. In 1991, he returned to First Christian Church in Johnson City, this time as senior minister. From that ministry, he was chosen to be named president of Milligan College in 1997.
Jeanes was an active member of Milligan’s Board from 1981 until his appointment as president. In 1994 he was awarded the honorary doctorate of divinity degree by Milligan College.
Jeanes is survived by his wife Clarinda, a 1971 Milligan graduate; a daughter and son-in-law, Amy and Brad Folck, both 1999 Milligan graduates; and grandsons Eli and Hayden.
A campus-wide convocation service will be held today at 11 a.m. in Seeger.
A celebration of life service is scheduled for Friday.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete and are being handled by Appalachian Funeral Home & Cremation Services.