Howard Jones Wins Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence

by Michael Eddy
Howard Jones has taught in the UNCSA School of Design & Production for 28 years.
Howard Jones has taught in the UNCSA School of Design & Production for 28 years.

Howard Jones, Director of Scenic Art and Scene Painting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, has been named as one of the 17 (one faculty member from each of the UNC campuses) recipients of the 2018 University of North Carolina Board of Governors Award for Teaching Excellence. 

An award-winning scenic artist, Jones has taught in the School of Design and Production (D&P) for a total of 28 years, from 1982-1988 and again from 1996 to the present. He served for five years as an assistant dean in D&P.

Howard Jones was scenic designer for the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute“Howard and his students set the stage, literally, for many of the most magical and memorable performances at UNCSA,” said Chancellor Lindsay Bierman. “His work has awed and delighted audiences for nearly three decades, and countless young artists have flourished under his mentorship. I greatly admire his extraordinary eye, exceptional talent, and ability to make a scene like no one else! I congratulate him on this richly deserved honor.”

The Excellence in Teaching Awards were established by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors in 1994 to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching at each of its 17 constituent institutions. Annually, each UNC campus honors several members of its faculty with campus-based Excellence in Teaching Awards and then forwards one name to the Board of Governors for the system-wide awards. The Board of Governors award recipients were announced earlier today.

D&P Dean Michael Kelley, an alumnus of the Scene Design program, was one of the first students Jones taught at UNCSA. “I have known Howard as a colleague and an instructor,” Kelley said. “He has earned the gratitude of his students and the respect of his peers. His work, and the work of his students, can be seen around the world, and in Broadway productions, regional theater, films, television, and themed events,” Kelley said. “Our scenic art graduates have a definite advantage in the job market because they studied with Howard.”

Many current and former students from the D&P program submitted nominations for the UNCSA Excellence in Teaching Awards, outlining the myriad of ways that Jones’ teaching has impacted their lives and their work. “Howard Jones is known for excellence in teaching, not just at UNCSA, but all across the U.S. and beyond… When (his students) go up for job interviews, talk with other scenic artists and theater professionals, or meet fellow and future alumni, we hear ‘Oh! You're one of Howard's!’ And that means a great deal,” an alumnus commented.

Howard Jones instructs a student in the D&P Paint Shop. Photo: David Hillegas“Howard's wealth of knowledge and skill and his ability and willingness to impart that knowledge and skill makes him one of the best educators I've ever known,” wrote another alumnus. “And he never rests or grows stagnant. Howard is continually learning new products and techniques, asking other industry members what is new or what skills a graduate needs, and going out and designing and working. And he's done all this for years. I'm a teacher myself now; Howard Jones is the gold standard.”

During his tenure, Jones mentored several undergraduate and graduate students who have won national awards from the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), one of the nation’s foremost organizations serving the live entertainment industry. In the past decade, four undergraduates have won USITT’s W. Oren Parker Undergraduate Scenic Design Award and two graduate students have won the Rose Brand Scene Design Award. In March, a 2018 M.F.A. candidate won USITT’s Master Craftmanship Award.

“These are highly coveted awards, and Howard has contributed to the training of each and every recipient,” Kelley said.

Ryan Wineinger, who won the USITT Scenic Design Award in 2009, the year he received his B.F.A., said although it has been 10 years since walked into his first design class with Jones, the lessons learned continue to inform his work. “Howard taught me that being more competent than my classmates was irrelevant, though being more competent than the student I was a week earlier was cause for celebration,” Wineinger said. “With his mentorship it became second nature to walk into the School of Design & Production with the determination to challenge myself to try a little harder each day. This individualistic mentorship materialized a sense of sustainable self-discovery that I continue to use as a touchstone today.”

Wineinger said he struggled in the beginning of his training, but Jones “always encouraged me to reach higher, dream bigger, and try harder. Now I am a Creative Director for Walt Disney Imagineering and I mentor many colleagues and new entertainment and performing artists who are still struggling with their sense of self, purpose, and artistic identity. After each encounter I am reminded that though I feel lucky and blessed for a lot of reasons, I am most grateful to be one of the thousands of humans Howard has changed for the better. Thank you just isn’t enough.”

John Bowhers, a founder of Peppercorn Children’s Theater, won the USITT undergraduate award in 2012. “Howard was one of the first professors to offer feedback and encouragement around my ideas for Peppercorn,” he said. “Now after eight years with the company I helped to start, I often think back to Howard’s embrace of the whole artist, and his unique ability to recognize and champion a student’s driving passions, even if they weren’t strictly aligned with their declared major.”

Bowhers said Jones was diligent in reminding students to dig deeper. “Of all the sage advice Howard would offer, ‘the devil’s in the details’ is a phrase that sits on my shoulder every time I saddle up to the drawing board, craft a grant narrative, or even go on a date,” he said.

More About Howard Jones
Howard Jones has taught in the School of Design & Production for 28 years.

Howard Jones is Director of Scenic Art and Scene Painting and Associate Professor in the School of Design and Production at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He was a member of the faculty from 1982-88 and returned to UNCSA in 1996. He served as Assistant Dean of Academics for the School of Design and Production from 2011-2016.

His list of accomplishments in scenic design is impressive in length and scope, with design projects taking him across the United States and as far afield as New Zealand and Romania. He joined Rachel Keebler in opening New York’s Cobalt Studios, a unique studio combining freelance commission work and seminar style classes. The studio was honored with a 2013 Educator’s Award from the U.S. Institute for Theatre Technology.

He was recognized in 2000 in Boston with the Elliott Norton Award and in 2005 in World Stage Design Expo. He has designed 300 productions in his career at North Shore Music Theatre, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, Missouri Repertory Theatre, State Ballet of Missouri, Weston Playhouse, North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, American Heartland Theatre, Goodspeed Opera, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Ballet and Opera of Romania, and the Coterie Theatre.

Jones was previously recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2001.

He earned a B.A. in Art and Communications from William Jewell College and did master’s degree work at Mankato State College in Minnesota.