Standing in solidarity
On Friday, SMU students and faculty threw an event in appreciation of faculty member Jennifer “JJ” Jones who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Along the years, we’ve all interacted with the one, the only, Jennifer ‘JJ’ Jones. She has been a beam of love and support for many of us. For those of you who do not know, in June, JJ was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Just this week she went through her second round of chemotherapy. As a result of her treatment, she lost her hair. She made the very brave move to rock a stylish new cut on Tuesday.
“So, in order to return all of the love and support she offers so willingly to us, we will offer it right back. Some equally brave souls will shave their heads for Jones. Should you not feel the need to do this, please do attend the event anyway! Show her some love, and sign the banner we will have prepared for her.”
This was the description in the Facebook event that spawned an evening full of appreciation and support of a faculty member so loved by her students and colleagues.
Hosted in the SAMSA office, there were cupcakes and punch, “The Wobble” and Michael Jackson, tears, laughter and shaved heads.
With chairs set in front of the room barbershop style, eight students shaved their heads before Jones and an audience to show their support for her.
Various faculty and students contributed the celebratory party for Jones, but the event was spearheaded by students Anthony McAuliffe, Kelsey Williams, Wilson Leung, Joshua Kezar and Monica Finnegan.
The party was a surprise for Jones. Tears streamed down her face and words barely escaped her lips as she saw students dressed in pink and sporting newly shaved heads.
“Words can’t express what I feel. Love, family and community. This is what SMU is about,” Jones said.
Around 100 people came out and showed their support. Many expressed how Jones has been such positive influence in their lives since she came to SMU.
“JJ has done so much for the university,” Williams said. “She deserved to be supported.”
“The best thing is to have encouragement [and] support,” Genesis Reed said. “It’s our duty.”
In addition to the party, students and faculty at SMU have formed a team for the Dallas Race for the Cure in honor of Jones, Williams said.
The idea for the event began with a couple students discussing shaving their heads for Jones, McAuliffe said. And from there it picked up speed.
“Everyone loves JJ. They wanted to help in any way,” McAuliffe said.
Oscar Centina was among the “brave souls” who shaved their heads.
“[I am] mentally preparing myself for this,” Centina said before undergoing the big chop. “I like my hair. It’s the perfect length.” But, Centina said it was worth it for Jones. “It’s time for us to be strong for her [and] I want it [his shaved head] to be empowering,” Centina said.
Jones is a long-time Mustang. She is executive director of the Division of Student Affairs and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from SMU. She served as manager of SMU’s conference and guest services until 1997. Prior to that, she was an area manager for six years.