The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Student-created mural for Dr. Venus Jones, first Black graduate of UMW, unveiled in Jepson Hall

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The new Venus Jones mural, celebrating the life of UMW’s first Black graduate, is located in Jepson Hall. | @thevenusjonesproject / Instagram


Senior Writer

On April 8, a mural in Jepson Hall was dedicated to Dr. Venus Jones, the first Black graduate from UMW. During her time at UMW, Jones majored in chemistry and later went on to become a neurologist.

University President Troy Paino thanked the students who worked on the mural for their contribution to the university.

“I really want to thank the students for your work. This is gonna live on here. Much like Dr. Jones’s legacy, this work that you have done, this is your legacy in terms of what you’ve added to this community,” said Paino. “Not only is it a display of Dr. Jones’s legacy, it’s really a display I think of what makes Mary Washington education so special, so thank you for your hard work on this.”

The mural showcases Jones’s life as well as the achievements of other trailblazing Black women in the medical field. A QR code included on the mural leads to a digital website where students can learn more about these women.

Jones had a lot of achievements even at a young age. According to the website, during her time in high school and college, “She displayed a wide variety of interests, participating in marching band, foreign language club, and science club. Venus Jones was also a member of youth civil rights organizations, where she would help to distribute sample ballots throughout Black communities and educate others on how to vote.”

Senior history major Timbila Kabre spoke about her experience working on the project.

“It’s been a lot of work,” she said. “We have never worked on a project this closely aligned with the school before, so we weren’t anticipating the tight deadlines and the tight turnarounds. But like Professor McClurken said, the hands-on practice, working with people higher up and meeting their expectation was a really good experience, so we’re happy that we’ve been able to do that, but more so, we are very happy that we got to get to know Dr. Jones through this project and my groupmates and I, we all love her, we love her to death,” said Kabre. 

Sophomore history major Logan Kurtz also enjoyed her time working on the project.

“Getting to see the way that the Jones family responded to the mural was fantastic,” said Kurtz. “Hearing more stories about a woman I have learned so much about was so insightful. While history is so focused on the lives of the past, seeing the way that Venus lives in the present was so touching. Even though this project created a lot of stress, it was so worth it to get to see the impact. It was also so great to work with such an incredible group of people.”

Kabre has learned that students may have more in common with Jones than they thought.

“We find her work absolutely inspiring, although I am not a science person myself, but I have discovered a lot about myself by working on this project and I have developed new passions and new ideas of where to go after I leave Mary Washington,” said Kabre. “So, our hope is to continue to be a reflection of Venus Jones here on campus, to show her hard work through the student body and to show her dedication to the things that she’s passionate about. We’re also hoping that students who visit Jepson Hall or visit our website are able to see themselves in her, much like I have.”

Chief of Staff Jeff McClurken explained how the idea for the mural came to be.

“In the 2019-2020 Trinkle Hall renaming process, many of our board members learned about Venus Romance Jones for the first time, who she was and who she represented in Mary Washington’s history, and in 2020 the board asked the school to look for ways to recognize Dr. Jones,” said McClurken. “Well, one of our professors, Andrew Dolby, was watching that board meeting when the board asked that and immediately jumped at the chance, he had an idea for this.”

This project involved multiple departments working together.

“After the committee was formed, he brought the idea of a concept of a mural honoring Dr. Jones here in Jepson to the board and to the administration, as well as to Dr. Jones’s brother, Albert Jones,” said McClurken. “Professor Dolby’s committee worked with our Campus Environment committee, led by professor Steve Hanna, as well as art professor Carole Garmon, who had taken on a new role as Mary Washington’s campus display project manager.”

McClurken credits students with making the mural a reality.

“Mary Washington prioritizes students getting hands-on experience and this particular project is no exception,” he said. “I want to recognize the students in two different classes, introduction to public history and digital history, students who are why this project is here before you in this form that it is.”

The digital site includes interviews with those who were close to Dr. Jones.

“Professor Devlin also then interviewed Mr. Jones and friends of Dr. Jones and those oral histories of Dr. Jones as a child, a student, and adult are now part of our permanent digital collection of the university library and can be found on the site created by digital history students this semester,” said McClurken. 

Paino believes that the mural will serve as an inspiration to students.

“What an example for our students, today and in the future. Mr. Jones was saying this is the sort of thing that should be in schools,” he said. “It is my belief that this will be an inspiration for students for years to come, so thank you for sharing your sister, Mr. Jones, with Mary Washington.”

At the end of his speech, Paino officially dedicated the mural to Jones.

“So, with this, I hereby dedicate the Dr. Venus Jones mural in honor of her legacy,” he said. “May we all try to live up to it.”

Scotti Mullen contributed to reporting for this article.