President Dr. Greg Jones Delivers First Commencement Addresses, Awards Honorary Doctorate to Jim Ayers
Dr. Greg Jones delivered his first commencement addresses as President of Belmont at each of the University’s three weekend ceremonies on May 6 and 7. The University recognized the graduation of 1,328 students, with 1,011 bachelors, 117 masters and 247 doctoral degrees conferred.
During Saturday’s afternoon ceremony, Dr. Jones also awarded a special honorary Doctor of University degree to an individual who has greatly impacted both Belmont and the Nashville community: Jim Ayers.
Honorary degrees have been presented by American colleges and universities since 1962 in recognition of scholarly and creative attainments, as well as for meritorious humanitarian service. Belmont is selective in bestowing this award as the highest honor conferred by the University.
Dr. Jones said, “Throughout my inaugural year, we have emphasized our aspirations for members of the Belmont community to be future shapers and bridge builders, committed to the pursuit of life abundant for all people. Jim’s ongoing devotion to championing our students and their development exemplifies what it means to be a radical agent of hope, and it is Belmont’s privilege to recognize him.”
Jim Ayers is the founder of the Ayers Foundation and of FirstBank, Tennessee’s largest independently owned and operated bank. Jim and his wife Janet Ayers are longtime friends of the University, passionate about improving the lives of young people in Tennessee by giving them access to life-changing learning opportunities. In 2016, the Ayers Foundation gave $15 million toward endowed scholarships, the largest single donation in Belmont 130-year history at that time.
Ayers also consulted with Belmont in naming its largest campus building in honor of his wife, Janet. The Janet Ayers Academic Center stands as a beacon for the Belmont campus in its highly visible site, marking the structure as a cornerstone for the University and a beautiful landmark for the city of Nashville.
Jim and Janet Ayers are the shared recipients of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2007 Philanthropists of the Year Award. The Ayers Foundation has supported numerous projects including The Ayers Foundation Scholarship Program, which has made higher education accessible for more than 3,000 students from West Tennessee.