Thomas Jones and his older brother David, sons of a farmer from Wales who settled in Wisconsin in 1850, shared first honors at graduation from Princeton in 1876. Both were lawyers in Chicago and became wealthy in the practice of their profession and in business. Both were trustees of the University and strong supporters of Woodrow Wilson when he was its president.
In 1907, when the cornerstone of Palmer Hall was laid, the Jones brothers gave a $200,000 endowment for the physics and electrical engineering departments. In the late twenties, Thomas Jones and Gwethalyn Jones (daughter of David, who died in 1923) were the University's most generous benefactors when it was seeking $2,000,000 for scientific research to match a conditional $1,000,000 gift from the General Education Board. Thomas gave professorships in mathematics and in physics to express ``the debt of gratitude'' he owed Henry Burchard Fine and Cyrus Fogg Brackett ``as teachers and friends.'' At the same time, Gwethalyn endowed a chair in chemistry in memory of her father and another in mathematical physics in honor of her uncle. Two years later, they gave an additional $500,000 with which to supplement the income from the four $200,000 chairs in case salaries had to be raised, because, Jones said, his niece and he could not ``comfortably contemplate the possibility that the University might have to forego the services of men of the very first rank for these professorships.''
In 1928 Jones agreed to be one of ten alumni to subscribe $100,000 each to the $2 million Alumni Fund for Faculty Salaries. He said he felt that it was only fair that the largest part of this fund should come from those ``who have what I may loosely call superfluous wealth,'' rather than from those ``who have their hands full supporting their families.'' Unable to secure the nine other subscribers, the Committee suggested that Jones make his subscription conditional on the completion of the entire fund. Jones declined this honor and, instead, made his subscription unconditional. ``I am not a general education board,'' he wrote ``and I do not quite like the pose of insisting that I shall have the privilege of placing the finial on the completed fund.'' Jones later provided in his will for a $500,000 bequest for faculty salaries.
Shortly after Dean Fine's death, in 1929, Jones and his niece provided for the erection of a mathematics building in his memory (the original Fine Hall, now Jones Hall), and, what was rarer, an endowment for its upkeep. Feeling that ``nothing is too good for Harry Fine,'' Jones said that the building to bear his name should be a place which ``any mathematician would be loath to leave.'' The finished building provided spacious wood-panelled library, common rooms, and faculty studies. It also contained a locker room with showerbath for faculty wishing to use the then-nearby tennis courts; this amenity inspired these lines about the department chairman in the Faculty Song:
``He's built a country-club for Math
Where you can even take a bath.
Loath as the mathematicians were to leave, in 1969 the increased size of the department compelled them to move into the new Fine Hall, leaving their marks in the old one -- mathematical formulas and figures in the leaded design of the windows, and Einstein's famous remark over the fireplace in what is now the lounge: Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott, aber Boshaft ist Er nicht (God is subtle, but He is not malicious).
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