Foundations of Education professor Robert Jones helped launch the Aerospace Institute graduate program at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. (Courtesy University of Houston-Clear Lake)
From working at NASA to spending more than four decades at a university he didn’t even know existed, Robert Jones, professor of educational foundations at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, has spent much of his life doing this that he likes.
“I feel called to be an educator,” Jones said in a June 25 press release sent by UHCL.
Before Jones set foot on the UHCL campus, he was responsible for mission planning and operations in the NASA public affairs office.
He took the opportunity to teach at UHCL when Alfred Neumann, the university’s first president, offered him a job. Through his ties to NASA, Jones has managed to leave his mark on the university.
He helped launch the Aerospace Institute’s graduate program, which began in 1976 and was the only program open to UH and UHCL students.
The 50 people admitted to the inaugural program were able to attend briefings, presentations, field experiences and site visits to Johnson Space Center and Ellington Air Force Base. Jones, who taught math and science throughout the school year and focused solely on the Aerospace Institute during the summer, slowly saw the curriculum grow.
“[The Aerospace Institute] was developing educators to prepare for a career in aerospace, ”Jones said in the release. “The Institute is what kept me here. NASA’s support was endless, including from crew members and astronauts. “
Over the decades, Jones has been a staple of UHCL, and constant collaboration with NASA has helped him recover a number of extraordinary relics, including space heat shields from Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury spacecraft. Being the teacher that he is, however, he decided to donate them to Space Center Houston so that others can enjoy and learn from them.
Jones has always done his best to reach as many people as possible. He even co-wrote 28 science texts for elementary-age children.
Now that he’s passed the 45-year mark with UHCL, Jones still has the passion to keep going. This fall, he will teach theories of educational psychology, he said in the statement, and he has no plans to slow down.
“I’m not retiring because I’m still having fun,” Jones said. “My students energize me every time I’m in class, every time they email me, every time they call me up and join the class.”