Trustee and Alumna, Sonya Jones passes at 73

Published on
February 17, 2021

Rev. Dr. Sonya L. Jones, aka Sw. Shraddhananda, passed away Feb. 16, 2021 from complications related to myelofibrosis, a rare blood and bone marrow cancer. She was 73.

“Sonya Jones was a dear friend, Trustee, alumna, and ardent supporter of Union College, and we will miss her kind face and warm heart," said President Marcia Hawkins, Ph.D.

A native of Somerset, Ky; Jones graduated from Union College with honors in 1969. While at Union, Jones was elected to the first student-faculty advisory board in the English department. Her major professor, Dr. Frank E. Merchant, called her poetry “the best undergraduate effort” he had ever seen. Her first published poem,   “Ode to Yuri Zhivago,” appeared in a national collegiate anthology in 1969. She also wrote editorials for the Orange and Black, Union’s student newspaper.

From 1971-1979, she worked as a journalist, professional writer, and editor in Atlanta. She was also active in the fledgling women’s movement, and she attended the first conference of Women in Print in Omaha as publisher of a small outlet for women’s writings. 

She re-entered the academic world in Fall 1979 in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts (ILA) at Emory University. She taught at Emory in the ILA and the department of English. With a dissertation on the innovative American poet John Berryman, she completed a doctorate in 1982 and took a teaching position at Allegheny College, a select plus liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Jones was heard to say on several occasions that her PhD was “painless”. Interdisciplinary scholarship was her forte, and she relished studying with such outstanding scholars as Dr. Arthur Evans, who directed her independent reading of the whole of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past and Dr. Richard Ellmann, the biographer of James Joyce. At Emory, she also served as graduate assistant to Sally Fitzgerald who edited the letters of Flannery O’Connor.

In 2004, Dr. Jones began another stint in college teaching in the Honors Program at the University of Kentucky where she was named as a “Teacher Who Makes a Difference”.

Dr. Jones returned to Somerset one year later. She taught at Somerset Community College, and she wrote for the Somerset Commonwealth Journal as well as the Pulaski News Journal.

Dr. Jones, who began her service on the Board of Trustees in 2010, is in the Union College Educator Hall of Fame, a member of the Legacy Society, and the founder of two endowed scholarships; Elva S. Jones Scholarship in Teaching and the Reid S. Jones Scholarship in Business. She is also the founder of an endowed award, The Jones Family Foundation Award in Education and the leading sponsor for the Dr. Fank Merchant Scholarship Endowment. 

"Union College and its Board of Trustees has suffered a tremendous loss." said Brian Strunk, Vice President of Advancement.  "Dr. Sonya Jones possessed a keen, kind mind, and was filled with a spirit of philanthropy and a deep connection to her alma mater." 

Dr. Jones is survived by three ordained Dharma Heirs to Sacred Feet Yoga, an Interspiritual system which she founded in 2010: Jenny Amrita Williams, Somerset; Sandra Chamatkara Simon, Pittsburgh, PA; and The Right Rev. Bishop Christine Deefholts aka Sw. Prakashananda, the United Kingdom.

Those who wish to remember the life and work of Dr. Jones aka Sw. Shraddhananda (the bliss of faith) may do so by sending a donation to The Jones Foundation, P.O. Box 289, Somerset, KY 42502.