Dr. Billy Lones and Mrs. Christi Lones will be leaving York University after nearly two decades of service.
Dr. Lones has accepted the role of President at Jackson Christian School in Jackson, Tenn., which he will begin on June 12. His term as the current York University provost concludes this month, and he will be moving shortly after. Christi and their two children will follow in July.
“For many years, we have said ‘God brought us to York and He will tell us when it’s time to leave’ and that time has come,” shared Dr. Lones. “Although it will be difficult to leave behind so many wonderful things and friends, we are extremely excited about our next adventure in Jackson.”
Billy and Christi joined the team at York College in 2004. Billy started as a planned giving officer in the Advancement Office and Christi was the student activities coordinator before transitioning into director of admissions.
“York has been a tremendous blessing to us,” said Dr. Lones. “When we moved here in 2004, the plan was to stay five years, then move back closer to home. Five years quickly turned into nineteen and our lives have been greatly enriched by the York community and York College/University.”
In 2008, they shifted into faculty positions, Billy designed the criminal justice curriculum and led the department. The program now boasts many successful graduates working in all areas of the field. In addition to serving as department chair and a member of the Academic Leadership Team, he previously served as division chair for professional programs and dean of York University Online. In 2022, Billy accepted the position of provost at York University. Since then, he has played a major role in leading the accreditation team.
Christi joined the history department as an associate professor. Her passion for sharing history spilled over into other areas of campus as she co-authored The Campus Series: York College published in 2014. Christi also created and hosted the widely popular event, Cultural Geography Fair, which brought in several hundred children to campus each year –also functioning as the final project in her cultural geography course. In 2014 and in 2017, she was selected as Faculty Member of the Year by the York University student body and in 2017 she also won the Dale R. Larsen Teacher of Achievement Award. Christi has played a major role in the summer high school leadership program, Presidential Leadership Institute. Most recently, Christi led a group of students in a two-week study-abroad trip in Europe.
“Universities rarely have the opportunity to hire a husband and wife duo with the impact potential that Billy and Christi brought to York University,” said President Sam Smith. “ Now, nineteen years later, we have the luxury to reflect and see that they had much more than potential. They have been difference-makers in the lives of our students while stepping into various leadership roles on YU’s campus, in the church, and in the city of York. Billy and Christi are both uniquely gifted individuals, yet together they served as a power couple who constantly aspired to live out the mission of York University.”
The two were frequent and popular speakers in “The Well” (daily chapel). Billy often shared life lessons and gave open invitations for anyone who wanted to know more about Jesus. He can be quoted saying, “If you need to talk about Jesus, if you need someone to pray for you, come see me. It doesn’t matter where you are in this faith journey, I am willing to help you. If you want to come by and just chat or talk about classes, I may send you away or have you make an appointment, but if you want to talk about Jesus, I’m going to make the time for you.” Christi presented special programs bringing historical events to life and giving significant acknowledgment to justice seekers and difference makers. She would regularly organize students, many of whom needed lots of encouragement, to step outside their comfort zones and share moments of history with the audience.
The Lones’ dedication to the mission of York University overflowed into many other areas of life. They always kept their doors open for students and supported the YU community in numerous, significant ways. They spent time as chaplains for athletic teams leading pregame devotionals and prayers, they hosted Bible studies at their home; and most notably were adoptive parents to many through the East Hill Church of Christ “Adopt-A-Student” program. Any students brought into the family were dubbed big brothers and sisters to the couple’s two children, Cooper and Calleigh.
Students who were blessed to attend their notorious “Tweet2Eat” meals were often treated to some of Billy’s true-blue barbecue and Christi’s sweet tea. And it wasn’t unusual for a gallon jug of that sweet tea to be delivered unexpectedly to a student needing some extra love.
“I sorta forced my way into the family when I started dating Aaron. He was already their adopted student,” shared Eryn (Jacobson) Conyers ’16, now married to Aaron Conyers ’15. “I had no clue what kind of jackpot I was winning, at the time. I was just hoping for some good food and I got that, and so much more. Billy baptized Aaron and Christi became a mentor to me. They led Bible studies with us, they led our pre-marital counseling and then Billy officiated our wedding. We wouldn't be us without them. Now in our post-college lives in York, they’ve walked with us through several challenges and helped us celebrate many victories. Our lives are forever changed because of the profound ways they chose to invest in us.”
President Sam Smith announced that Dr. Shannon Leinen has accepted the role of interim provost and officially began work in this role on June 1.