Glenn R. Jones borrowed $ 400 against his Volkswagen in 1967 and turned it into a cable TV empire that influences the way we learn today.
During a career that spanned five decades, Jones made Jones Intercable one of the 10 largest cable television operators in the United States. He then founded what would become the first online university to receive accreditation, Jones International University.
“Glenn was a man before his time,” said Stacey Slaughter, CEO of Jones / NCTI, one of Jones’ many companies. “It has transformed the communications, information, entertainment and education landscape by bringing cable television to millions of Americans. It freed higher education from the brick walls of traditional universities by bringing learning to people at home, first via cable, then via the Internet and mobile devices.
“Although the word visionary is often overused, it is a perfect description for Glenn.”
Denver cable television legend and distance education pioneer died Tuesday at the age of 85. Services were still on hold Tuesday night.
A graduate of the University of Colorado Law School, Jones began working in the cable television industry in 1961, representing cable companies in their acquisition efforts.
He bought his first cable system in 1967 in Georgetown – with the help of the loan against his car – an effort that served as the genesis of his cable company, Jones Intercable. The company was sold in 1999 to Comcast.
Just two weeks ago, Jones was driving an all-terrain vehicle in the mountains near Steamboat Springs, recalls fellow vacationer and cable pioneer John V. Saeman.
“He looked so healthy when we were up there for four days. We played gin rummy, he worked on crossword puzzles. We went fishing, ”said Saeman, who first met Jones in the mid-1960s when the two were working at Daniels & Associates, which became the investment arm of cable mogul Bill Daniels, often called “the father of cable television”.
“I’m grateful for the weather because we had some great ATV rides.”
Saeman, who was president and CEO of all of the Daniels companies in the 1970s and 1980s and later chairman of the Daniels Fund, recalls competing with Jones.
Jones became the first person to organize public limited partnerships to raise money to buy cable franchises. He then raised over $ 1.2 billion in equity.
Saeman and Jones became personal friends when Saeman moved into Jones’ high-rise building in Cherry Creek about five years ago.
“It’s almost surreal that Glenn and I and Bill (Daniels) were competitors along the way for both franchises and the sale of limited partnership units,” Saeman said. “We’ve never been very close but we’ve always known each other from events. But I would say that over the past five years, when I moved into the same apartment building as Glenn, we became friends. He was a great guy and I will miss him.
Jones has continued to stay at the forefront of technology and education and acquired NCTI in 2005. Jones / NCTI at Centennial trains people in cable and broadband technology. The company recently partnered with CableLabs, a Louisville research and development consortium.
“Glenn was instrumental in my mentoring when I entered the cable industry, giving me his valuable time and support. Glenn was one of Cable’s brightest innovative minds. He will be sorely missed, ”said CableLabs President and CEO Phil McKinney.
The Cable Center, a Denver-based nonprofit educational organization, added Jones to its Cable Hall of Fame in 2005.
“Glenn Jones was definitely one of the cable pioneers in Colorado,” said Larry Satkowiak, CEO and President of Cable Center. “… He comes from humble origins and has never forgotten that education was one of the keys to his success. He was determined that technology could best be applied to education as a great equalizer. We should all thank him for his leadership in digitizing the Library of Congress book collection. He was a visionary who had a good sense of business, but the soul of a poet.
Jana Henthorn, senior vice president of the Cable Center, was a longtime employee of Jones Intercable.
“Once you’ve worked with Glenn, you’ve never forgotten him. We were not his employees, we were his associates. The highest praise for an associate had to be said by Glenn, ‘The dragons in their caves tremble at your approach,’ ”she said.
In June, Jones was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress for his contributions to American society, joining an elite group that also includes US Congressman and Civil Rights leader John Lewis, astronaut Sally Ride, musician Johnny Cash, conductor Julia Child and Big Bird.
“It has been the passion of my life to make education accessible to more people,” Jones said at the time.
Jones first became involved in distance education in 1987, when he started a cable television network called Mind Extension University, which offered college courses via television. It shifted the online effort in 1993 with the opening of Jones University, which became the first accredited online-only university in 1999, according to the school.
Jones International University announced in April that it would close in 2016 due to declining enrollment and competition.
In recent years, Jones had also worked on a major development proposal – his first – for 42 acres of land that he assembled over the years at Centennial.
The Jones neighborhood, named after Jones, will be a mixed-use development with apartments, offices and retail adjacent to the Panorama Corporate Center.
Peter Coakley, managing director of Opus Development Co., which oversees the project, said he still remembers the evening he spent with Jones to celebrate the deal, with Jones regaling the group with stories about his first cable system in Georgetown and his time as a Navy Diver.
Prior to going to law school, Jones served for five years in the US Navy, specializing as an underwater demining frogman.
“He was a man of many interests, a quick wit, a very humble guy but also an entertaining guy,” Coakley said. “She was a very attractive person and a wonderful person to spend time with.”
Jones and his longtime partner Dianne Eddolls were also active in Denver’s philanthropic community, serving on a number of boards and committees.
John C. Malone, a cable mogul and chairman of the board of directors of Liberty Global, said Jones was “one of the really good guys in the history of the cable industry.”
“He was very inventive and extremely creative in developing all kinds of service businesses outside of the cable industry,” Malone said in an email. “Whenever someone was asked to champion the industry, Glenn was first in line. “
Comcast Corp. CEO Brian L. Roberts called Jones a “true entrepreneur and trailblazer.”
“His creativity and passion for helping people learn and advance through technology was ahead of many others,” said Roberts.
Emilie Rusch: 303-954-2457, email@example.com or twitter.com/emilierusch