Gary Hauk teaches LITS about Woodruff and his Three Wise Men

Gary Hauk presents at the InfoForum.

During this week’s InfoForum, Emory historian Gary Hauk treated LITS to a fascinating deep dive into the origin of the naming of the Woodruff Library’s central conference space, the Jones Room. His lecture, entitled “Mr. Woodruff and the Three Wise Men,” reintroduced the audience to a group of leaders whose history has been mostly forgotten over the decades.

“I was curious about the story behind Joseph W. Jones, for whom the Jones Room in the Library is named,” said InfoForum co-chairman Dawn Francis-Chewning. “The plaque at the base of his portrait notes that he was Chairman Emeritus of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Vice President Emeritus of the Coca Cola Company, and ‘Cherished Friend of the University and the Library.'”

Bob Mizell, circa 1950.

Relying on the treasure trove of Emory historical documents found in the Rose Library, Hauk delved into the history of Robert W. Woodruff, the Coca-Cola Company president who, with brother George W. Woodruff, donated $230 million to Emory, and for whom the Woodruff Library is named.

In his research, Hauk found that the story of Joseph “Joe” W. Jones could not be told without also including the other two “wise men,” Robert “Bob” C. Mizell and Boisfeuillet “Bo” Jones. These three men “nurtured the vision that Woodruff had for his alma mater, Emory University.”

According to Hauk, Bob Mizell met Woodruff when they enrolled together at Emory in 1908, when Emory was still located in Oxford, GA. Mizell organized the first student government at Emory and served as the first student president. In 1935, Mizell returned to Emory as Secretary of the University, where he was the chief development officer of the university and where he cultivated the lifelong friendship with Woodruff.

Robert W. Woodruff (L) and Boisfeuillet Jones (R) share a light-hearted moment.

As his most trusted advisor at the time, Mizell secured Woodruff’s donation to build the Winship Cancer Center, the first in a long line of charitable contributions. Mizell succeeded Woodruff on the Emory Board of Trustees (the only administrator to ever serve simultaneously as a trustee), and over two decades fostered the belief that the southern US should have a great university and that that university should be Emory.

Bo Jones, as an Emory University vice president, created a business plan for Emory in 1952 that brought the hospital and various schools of medicine, nursing, and dentistry under the single umbrella of a major medical center. This plan also established the Emory Clinic. Woodruff donated $5 million toward this plan. Jones subsequently became president of the Woodruff Foundation, and enjoyed a strong relationship with Woodruff. Jones was president of the Emily and Ernest Woodruff Fund when George and Robert Woodruff gave their largest single donation to Emory, $105 million.

Joe Jones.

Joe Jones had begun working for the Coca-Cola Company as a secretary and later became Woodruff’s chief of staff, eventually rising to become senior vice president and director of the company. Woodruff called Jones his “most trusted business associate.” Joe Jones was also chair of the Woodruff Foundation and worked closely with Bo Jones to manage Woodruff’s charitable contributions. After Woodruff’s death in 1985, Joe Jones was the executor of the Woodruff estate.

When Joe Jones was presented with an honorary degree from Emory in 1985, the citation read, “Remarkable administrator, public-spirited citizen, devoted friend and counselor, you have brought to your calling a rare capacity to apprehend the whole of a worthy enterprise while yet attending to its every important detail.”

Hauk asked the audience to remember these three wise men for their contributions to Emory University.

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