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Top of Mind: Doug Jones

News Type Public Address

Sen. John Glenn, left, and Faculty Emeritus Doug Jones blow out candles on the cake for the senator’s 94th birthday celebration in Page Hall at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

By Joan Slattery Wall

When Dean Trevor Brown and other colleagues urged Faculty Emeritus Doug Jones to write a memoir about his career in federal public service and education, he put off the idea, thinking it immodest and unnecessary. 

But he’s got some incredible tales to tell. 

“So I convinced myself, finally, and have done now about 75 pages of legal pad handwriting of the journey in what is a draft at the moment,” Jones said. 

The journey began with an Ohio State master’s degree in economics followed by nine years in the Air Force, working at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. While there, he successfully applied for the first fellowships from the Mershon Center for International Security Studies offered at Ohio State. 

“I had to arrange to get the Air Force to let me come and accept this $3,000 scholarship — that was a big scholarship in 1956 — and I had to go to the Pentagon and work it out with the chief of staff of the Air Force. The Air Force had just created a college in Colorado, the U.S. Air Force Academy. He said, If you go there and teach economics, I’ll let you go to Ohio State. That was Gen. Curtis LeMay, an alumnus of Ohio State, so it was another lucky thing for me,” Jones remembered. 

Dialogue with Doug Jones: The Pentagon Papers

Faculty Emeritus Doug Jones was an administrative assistant to then-Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel when Gravel read thousands of pages of the Pentagon Papers into the record of his Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds. He remembers the era in this 2018 conversation with Glenn College Distinguished Adjunct Professor William Shkurti. 

After receiving his doctorate in economics and fulfilling his promise as a professor at the Air Force Academy, he served as chief economist to President Lyndon Johnson’s President’s Committee for Developing Alaska following the 1964 earthquake — still the strongest ever recorded in North America — and then special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce for regional economic development.  

At the end of the Johnson administration, then-Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel asked Jones to be his administrative assistant, leading to a public service experience he never could have anticipated. When Gravel decided to publicly release the Vietnam War Pentagon Papers in 1971, reading them into the Congressional Record at a subcommittee meeting, Jones and three other staffers spent the previous night reviewing and redacting security information from the thousands of pages.  

“We pored through all night long and took out things that were really secret, because of course this was on the conduct of the war. We were talking it over whether it was the right thing to do to surface these documents publicly,” he said. “It was pretty high drama.” 

“I, especially as an academic, was afraid about whether it was the right thing to do. Especially having served in the military, here we were taking what Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara had commissioned and were spilling it out into the public,” Jones said. “When I advised him, I was persuaded by the importance of getting the public to hear that they’d been lied to about the war. I think he was right about that.” 

I always thought it was an example of where in public service, as a dutiful public servant, sometimes you’re unintentionally in the middle of pretty big-time stuff. 

Doug Jones
Glenn College Faculty Emeritus

Following a position at the Library of Congress as assistant chief of the Congressional Research Service Economics Division, where he often crossed paths with Sen. John Glenn, he was named a professor at the Glenn College predecessor, the School of Public Administration, in 1978. The position carried with it the founding directorship of the National Regulatory Research Institute, a research organization to help public utility commissions create better policies, through 1998. 

Doug Jones, Glenn College Faculty Emeritus

“Doug Jones made the NRRI into a nationally recognized, reliable, trusted source of expert policy analysis at a time of turmoil in utility regulation,” said Vivian Witkind Davis, a 1982 graduate of the Glenn College PhD program who worked with Jones as a researcher and associate director at NRRI. “He conducted and managed decades of impartial, always thorough research that commissions routinely used in their consideration of alternative policy choices that made big differences for markets and consumers. During his service as NRRI director, Doug was a giant in the U.S regulatory community, known and respected everywhere. Working for him was a high challenge and greatly satisfying because we always knew we were serving a public need well.” 

Jones advised Canada, Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia and Egypt in matters of public utility regulation. 

Now the Harold L. and Audrey P. Enarson Professor (Emeritus) of Public Policy and Management, Jones retired in 2004 but continued to teach at the Glenn College for another 16 years. He shares his thoughts and memories about his time at Ohio State. 

Why did you consider your federal public service particularly grooming for you to come to Ohio State to run the National Regulatory Research Institute and return to teaching? 

I’ve always chosen to straddle in public service being both a practitioner and an academic. I always felt I was a better practitioner for being an academic and a better academic for being a practitioner. Some people want to do one over the other, but the more fun, interesting approach, is the one I chose: to be both practitioner and academic. 


What did you enjoy most about your time at the Glenn College?  

The graduate students and good colleagues. I say the graduate students in that at our place, or any university, there’s teaching, research and civic service. But of those three, teaching was the one most gratifying to me and what I thought was the right thing to care about. 

Faculty Emeritus Doug Jones retired in 2004 but kept teaching at the Glenn College well into his 80s.

What are your hopes for the future of public service? 

It’s just a bad time, it’s a serious time for colleges like ours. It’s all the more necessary to have places like the Glenn College trying to graduate persons that fit the broader and traditional role of what public servants do, but there’s so much disaffection with government and ugliness that surrounds it. It’s a very, very, very hard time. I’m disheartened about the current setting in public service. One thing I cite from time to time is a great speech President John F. Kennedy gave at a Yale commencement on public service as a calling. Since I spent 60 years viewing public service as a calling, I’m drawn to that great speech. 


Do you have a funny or touching memory you could share about your time here?  

One that was particularly poignant was this: John Glenn’s birthday was July 18, and of course the college, and even before it was a college, always put on a nice birthday party for him. When he discovered that my birthday was July 14, he insisted for the last few years that I be part of the birthday party and that I be in on the celebration. I’ve got a couple pictures of me and him blowing out the candles at his birthday party. When I worked at the Congressional Research Service, John Glenn was a big user, so I did quite a bit of work for him there. Then the irony, we never thought we’d be together 80 feet apart with our offices at Page Hall. 

Former students of Jones recall his wisdom and guidance.

Padma Sastry, PhD, Public Policy and Management, 2006

Dr. Doug Jones, who corrected me once to call him Doug: Nothing makes me smile more than remembering his classes at 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. As a PhD candidate, I had signed up for a series of three courses themed on regulation spanning over a year. I would be exhausted after a full day of work only to awaken to rapt attention, completely absorbed in his insightful class full of discussions, court visits to watch a congressional debate or its kin, and lectures by a renowned government official on the nuances within. But Doug was kind enough to always treat us with cupcakes or a sweet that would be duly devoured with eagerness.  

Doug was a stickler for perfection, conciseness and brevity in what the class produced — an essay, a response to a current affair question and ultimately my own dissertation. Over multiple trips and poring over each word I had carefully penned, he would still find fixes to be made in what finally ended up as a more than 300-page document. All with a smile and often a suggestion of his own, and for chuckles, occasional tidbits of his recent stay at his summer house on the East Coast. 


“Doug cared.”  

Padma Sastry, PhD, public policy and management, 2006 


When my graduation approached and my committee chair was unavailable, Doug offered to hood me in his stead.  

Years after my graduation, he and I worked on research papers together, many in his office filled with his treasures and often in the Faculty Club. 

A staunch believer in democracy and good regulation (as he would refer to it), his values opened and expanded my own over the many years I had the privilege of working with him. Always there to support and encourage me to go beyond my aspirations, his references led me to multiple opportunities that would not otherwise have come my way. 

I continue to look forward to meeting with Doug, our interesting dialogue and, as always, leaving with fresh insightful thoughts. 

Bruce Weston, Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, retired

More than 40 years ago, at the beginning of my career in utility consumer protection, I became one of the many Ohio State students taught principled government regulation of monopoly utilities by Professor Doug Jones. At the time, I was a law student and legal intern at the Office of the Ohio Consumers Counsel. His teachings — for regulating utility services that are essential to the welfare of the public — reflect a career of instruction in how government officials can live up to their duty to regulate the powerful and influential utility industry.  

Of course, few failures to protect the public are more egregious than the recent government and industry corruption involving FirstEnergy — which Professor Jones described as “sordid” in his 2020 letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch. My grounding in the regulatory principles taught by Professor Jones stood me well, as the then-Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, in opposing House Bill 6 and requesting its veto, then asking for its repeal, and in seeking reforms of the PUCO. Professor Jones’ lessons for protection of utility consumers, spanning almost half a century, have never been more needed than in Ohio government now.  

Over the decades, Professor Jones and I kept in contact. And he invited me to guest-lecture in his classes on a number of occasions. Further, I read and learned from the research papers on public-interest utility regulation issued by the then-National Regulatory Research Institute that Professor Jones headed for years.  

Professor Jones was one of the faculty members who nominated me for the 2023 John Glenn Outstanding Public Service Award. The award is a great honor for me, as I retired from public service as the Director of the Office of the Ohio Consumers Counsel. 

Read the latest edition of Public Address, the Glenn College magazine.