Atrium in Rice Hall Named After Anita Jones

By Laura Longhine

University Emerita Professor Anita Jones

With a generous contribution from Leidos, the atrium of U.Va.’s Rice Hall has been named the Jones Atrium, in honor of University Emerita Professor Anita Jones.

For Jones, a longtime professor and former head of the computer science department at U.Va., it was a particularly meaningful and unexpected retirement gift. The atrium dedication was made on the occasion of her stepping down from the board of Leidos (formerly SAIC, or Science Applications International Corp.) after decades of service.

“For an academic, that is just such a wonderful and thoughtful gift. It was a complete surprise,” says Jones, who was informed of the gift at a retirement dinner hosted by Leidos.

“We wanted to find an appropriate way to recognize her,” explains John Thomas, an executive vice president in charge of corporate strategy at Leidos. He said that the company reached out to U.Va. to come up with an appropriate gift. In addition to Jones’s ties to U.Va, the University is also one of Leidos’s strategic partners. “We have an ongoing relationship with the University,” Thomas says, which includes supporting research and other initiatives, primarily at the Engineering School.

Jones first came to U.Va. in 1988 as chair of the computer science department, after serving on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon University and then co-founding a small software start-up. It was a very attractive time to come to U.Va. in computer science,” she says. ”There was opportunity to build a strong department, and that was something I wanted to do.”

That same year, she joined the board of SAIC, which later became Leidos. On the board, Jones led the ethics and corporate responsibility committee for many years.

“She really provided a lot of leadership in that area, in how the company engages with the community and supports the communities where we live and work,” Thomas says. “That was a major contribution.” He also notes that Jones was looked to as the technology expert on the board.

“She was really very well thought of and well respected on the board; she was viewed as someone the company could go to for counsel and guidance,” he says.

In 1993, Jones was appointed Director of Defense Research and Engineering at the U.S. Department of Defense, where she oversaw the science and technology program, research laboratories and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). She returned to U.Va. in 1997. Later, she was appointed a University Professor at U.Va., a distinction awarded to only about a dozen faculty members at any given time, and which allows faculty to teach in any department. Jones took the opportunity to teach science and technology courses in addition to computer science.

Jones retired from teaching in 2010, but retains an office at Rice Hall and says she tries to stay involved with the university. “For example, I chaired the search committee for the next dean of engineering,” she says. “And I try to be a role model and mentor for women graduate students.”

Professor Kevin Skadron, the current chair of the computer science department, says it was especially appropriate that Professor Jones be recognized in Rice Hall. “She did much of the initial work to plan for this building when she was chair,” he says. “And she has served the department in so many ways.”

A formal dedication of the atrium will be held on April 30th at 11 am.