The Life of Rufus Jones

It is a matter of a good deal of importance to have a body of people, even though it may be a small body, who will not surrender their ideal—their vision of advance—even in the face of the earthquake and the broken strata. It is worth something to have the lighted torch held high, when others have allowed the swirl of the storm to blow theirs out.

Rufus Jones

A Haverford graduate, and later a professor at the college for more than forty years, Rufus Jones (1863-1948) combined a life of intellectual inquiry with a commitment to faith and to community service.  Jones was a prolific scholar who wrote for both academic and popular audiences. He authored more than 50 books and 1,000 articles on topics ranging from mysticism (on which he was a world-renowned expert) to a history of Haverford College to a compendium of Maine humor.  Considered by many to be the leading Quaker of the 20th century, Jones was an advocate for tolerance and reconciliation during a time of conflict and dissension within the community of American Friends.  His “central faith in the intrinsic worth and infinite spiritual possibilities of every person” found its greatest expression in his role in founding and guiding the work of the American Friends Service Committee, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for helping to feed starving Germans after WWI as well as helping with relief efforts and refugee assistance. A trip to Berlin by Jones and other leading Quakers to protest the Kristallnacht pogroms was ridiculed Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in an newspaper editorial and afterwards they focused their efforts on individual refugee assistance.    

Jones great passion was teaching. Of his career as an educator, Jones wrote, “I endeavored to make the lecture periods occasions for facing seriously, and above all else, honestly, the difficulties confronting the modern world and to blaze a trail which would make life rich, meaningful and thrilling.” While a student at Haverford, Jones did probably more than any other student has to give students agency and a strong voice in student government and in the honor code.  A passionate believer in the transformative power of education, Rufus Jones was known for his radiant optimism, his storytelling, and his infectious sense of humor, always told in his native Maine accent.