John Wiley Jones was born in Pennsylvania in 1901 and moved with his family to the Caledonia area in 1916 where his father established a plant that made explosives. After graduating from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, he spent a brief time as an account executive with a New York advertising agency.
His involvement with one of the accounts, Chlorox, led to his own business interest in chemicals for cleaning and water purification. He produced and distributed his first commercial product, Sunny Sol bleach, from 10-gallon earthenware crocks in the basement of his parents home in LeRoy, New York. The product became a household word in the Northeastern United States largely through the personal selling efforts of John Wiley Jones. He established Jones Chemicals, Inc. in 1929, and the company eventually became the worlds largest distribution complex for a wide variety of the hard-working chemicals used for water purification, sewage treatment, bleaching, metal degreasing and dry-cleaning.
When the United States entered World War II, Jones Chemicals was selected to provide the chlorine used to purify the water for the U.S. Army posts and naval stations. The company also developed and perfected a method for making the smokescreen material used by Navy PT boats to screen U.S. fleets. The Secretary of the Navy awarded John Wiley Jones and his company the Naval Certificate of Achievement in recognition of this work.
John Wiley Jones had a passion for science education and was a generous contributor to academic excellence at RIT. In 1974, Jones Chemicals established the John Wiley Jones Distinguished Lectureship in Science for the purpose of making a significant contribution to the educational programs of RIT's College of Science. Jones intention was to bring eminent scientists to the RIT campus to spend several days speaking with students and faculty and conducting master classes and workshops. It was also expected that the visiting scientist would present a formal lecture that would be open to the public with special invitations extended to leaders of business, industry, and education as well as members of the area's scientific and professional societies.
Jones also created a scholarship fund to inspire and encourage students to pursue careers in science. The John Wiley Jones Award for Outstanding Students in Science is given to students in each of the six departments in the College of Science in recognition of their academic achievements and their contributions to the entire campus as good citizens.
In 1977, Jones was named to RIT's honorary Board of Trustees. According to former RIT President M. Richard Rose, in its entire history RIT has elected only two persons to its honorary Board of Trustees who had not already served on its regular board. One need know John Wiley Jones only a short time to understand why he was selected. There isn't anyone who is more imaginative, more creative or more dedicated. His energy is boundless.
John Wiley Jones passed away in February 1986. Bruce Bates, chairman of the RIT Board of Trustees at the time remarked: "I have a sense that John Wiley Jones was a breed apart. He was an entrepreneur who started a business from scratch, working with basic raw materials, and developed it into a highly successful company. He not only was highly supportive of RIT, but of his Caledonia community and the greater Rochester Community. He was a man of humor, and RIT and the Board of Trustees will miss his guidance, counsel and wit.