Bloustein School mourns passing of Stephen K. Jones, longtime faculty member and former President/CEO of RWJUH

December 8, 2021

The Bloustein School is saddened to share the passing of Steven K. Jones, an Executive in Residence in the school’s Master of Health Administration program as well as a member of the school’s Advisory Board, on Monday, December 6, 2021, at his home in Kendall Park. 

Steve was the former President and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Health System.

His obituary can be found here, which provides details about Steve’s professional career and achievements.

“I had the pleasure of attending the event in Princeton in January 2019 when Steve was awarded the Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Healthcare Executives,” said Piyushimita (Vonu) Thakuriah, PhD, Distinguished Professor and Dean of the Bloustein School. “Through Steve, I was introduced to the New Jersey healthcare community but most of all, it was a privilege to see how well-regarded Steve was in that community.”

Steve Jones was presented the American College of Healthcare Executives “Lifetime Achievement Regent’s Award” for service to the College and the field in January 2019.
Steve Jones (center) and other honorees at the 2019 American College of Healthcare Executives
awards presentation.
.

Steve joined the Bloustein School at the time of the school’s founding in 1992. Through 2013, he taught courses in Financial Aspects of Urban Health and Introduction to Health Administration as an Adjunct Faculty/Part-Time Lecturer in the undergraduate Public Health program. His interest in the school helped pave the way for the introduction of the Health Administration programs.

The undergraduate major in Health Administration was created in 2015. In January 2017, the Bloustein School enrolled its first cohort of graduate students in the Executive Master of Health Administration program and in the fall of 2017, the traditional Master of Health Administration program began enrolling students. Steve was involved in all three programs, teaching executive leadership, management, and finance in both the graduate and undergraduate programs, having been named Senior Policy Fellow at the school and later an Executive in Residence for his dedication to the health administration programs.

MHA faculty at ACHENJ annual breakfast meeting January 31, 2020. From left to right: Dr. Michael McDonough, Alexander Hatala, Betsy Ryan, Steve Jones, Courtney Culler (Asst. Director, Bloustein School Graduate Student Services), Cheryl Egan (Career Management Specialist, Bloustein MHA), Ann Marie Hill, Dr. Ray Caprio, MHA Program Director.

Steve’s service to the Bloustein School has been substantial on multiple fronts. As an inaugural member of the school’s Advisory Board, he assisted in locating and resourcing opportunities to promote and strengthen its academic and research programs, and its partnerships with communities and organizations in New Jersey and beyond.

“Steve’s work on the Advisory Board has been exemplary, especially as we established upstream determinants of health as a cross-cutting school-wide theme,” said Dean Thakuriah. “In addition to helping establish our MHA program, he played a significant role in the program’s accreditation by CAHME, and served on the inaugural Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Task Force. I, and the entire school, acknowledge his contributions and are grateful for his work.”

“Steve was deeply committed to our health administration programs here at the Bloustein School,” said Raphael J. Caprio, Ph.D., University Professor and Director of Master of Health Administration programs. “He repeatedly indicated that after a lifetime of leadership in healthcare, teaching here was what he really wanted to do in his “second” career. He will be mightily missed by his friends and colleagues among the faculty and staff.”

Vincent D. Joseph, FACHE, Professor of Practice and Senior Policy Fellow at the Bloustein School, said that Steve’s passion in life was Rutgers. His dedication began with Rutgers Athletics, leading negotiations to confirm Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital as the principal healthcare provider for the university’s athletics program prior to the RWJBarnabas Health merger. That dedication to Rutgers later blossomed to the health administration programs at the Bloustein School.

“Steve was a quiet leader that did great things for healthcare in New Jersey,” said Mr. Joseph. “In the last several years as CEO of the RWJ system, he became a champion and expert in Diversity and Inclusion, speaking on the topic to many hospital groups across the country on behalf of the American Hospital Association.”      

“He had often told me of the 20-plus years that he was a part-time lecturer for the Bloustein School. When he was about to step down as CEO of RWJ, we had lunch to talk about him taking a larger role in the MHA program. And he said, ‘teaching is what I want to do with my remaining time!’,” Mr. Joseph continued. “And our students loved him.”

“Stephen Jones was not only a devoted teacher and mentor to our students for the past 20+ years, but a role model who exemplified the best in healthcare leadership. His commitment to inclusion and diversity, his focus on quality care for all and his belief that we can all always do more to make the world a better place has left an indelible mark on all of us at the Bloustein School,” said Ann Marie Hill, MBA, Associate Professor of Practice and Undergraduate Internship Coordinator. “The lessons he taught our students – indeed, each of us – will live on for many years as we will strive to carry on his legacy.”

Jacob Persily ’16 (Health Administration), MHA ’19, Operations Analyst, Supply Chain and an acute care administrator at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, was one of the first students to enroll in the school’s Health Administration major and was in the first class of MHA graduates. He began working full-time at RWJ just as Steve was transitioning to his role as the Chief Academic Officer of RWJBarnabas Health.

MHA faculty at the 2019 MHA internship presentations.

“Stephen Jones was not just a professor, he served as a mentor to countless students over the many years he was a part of the Bloustein School. He measured success not by his own success, but by his students’ success – he was always the first to comment on a LinkedIn post highlighting a former student’s promotion or new job,” Jacob said. “Professor Jones ensured that the curriculum stayed up-to-date with current happenings in the New Jersey healthcare industry, often changing his lecture topics on the fly to bring his perspective as a hospital President on that day’s news in the business.”

“Even after his departure from day-to-day operations at RWJUH, his legacy was felt here with his positive attitude and attention to the front line staff regularly coming up in conversation. As you may imagine, working in a hospital during a global pandemic over the past two years has not been easy, but it has been nice to have staff stopping by to remember Steve and his legacy. He will be missed by his thousands of students and his tens of thousands of other friends.”

Visitation will be Thursday, December 9 from 3:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Selover Funeral Home, 555 Georges Road, North Brunswick. Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers,The State University of New Jersey or Rutgers Athletics program.

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Faculty, staff, students, or alumni of the Bloustein School or Rutgers University who would like to share a brief memory/comment/photos of Steve, please email karyno@ejb.rutgers.edu with “Steve Jones tribute” in the subject line and indicate that they may be shared on our website and/or social media.

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We received many comments and memories from various people within and outside of the Bloustein School community. The following are those that people have give us permission to share.

I first met Mr. Jones as a sophomore volunteering as an RFund Ambassador during a football game in September 2017. We shared a table, me him and his wife Barbara, as we ate and watched the football game. I shared a little about me and my family’s ties to Rutgers and why I was there, and he talked about his beginnings with the football team and Coach Schiano. This was also right around the time I was starting READI with a few of my peers, and so I shared that with him. He absolutely loved the idea, and so before we went our separate ways at the end of the game, he gave me his phone number and told me to reach out because he would love to talk more about READI. I was elated that he was genuinely interested in our program. 

Over the next 4 years, Mr. Jones served as a mentor to me and eventually became a great friend. The same love, compassion, and leadership he served his hospital staff and community with, he put into mentoring me. A few times a semester we would meet for coffee at any one of his favorite restaurants down on George Street. He would ask about baseball, my family, school, and READI. And I would tell him all about how I was pursuing physical therapy and that READI was growing its presence on campus. The best part of our meetings though, were when I would ask him questions about his life. He would tell story after story, about him in college or him in the air force or him hanging with his favorite Rutgers coaches, but my favorite were the stories of him in his role leading RWJ Hospital. He knew every single one of his hospital staff members names, from the chief neurosurgeon to the nighttime custodian. He loved his staff and they loved him, because they knew he would do anything for them. 

I want to share something from one of our meetings in July of 2019. At this point in our friendship he was invested in me, invested in my pursuit of PT school and my success as an athlete at Rutgers. He would come to baseball games, I would email him questions about topics from my healthcare admin classes, he would give me advice on how to better run READI, and I would introduce him to other athletes (which he loved, he adored all of RU’s student athletes, I can’t say that enough). He was a huge part of our community and family on The Banks. So, that July meeting I had a big question for him. I was starting my interviews for grad school and I wanted to know if he had any advice for answering interview questions. We ate some breakfast, drank some coffee, and he shared with me one of the greatest pieces of advice that I will never forget. He ripped a piece of napkin and wrote on it “Q = a + H.” He went on to explain that whenever, in an interview…or in life, someone asks you a question, you want to give them your best answer. Now, as president and CEO he obviously had enough practice answering questions, and he knew as a future healthcare professional I would have to answer my future patients and colleagues’ questions, so he wanted me to understand this and cared enough to share it with me. Whenever you are asked a question your response should include a small answer (small “a” aka few words) but have all of your heart behind that answer (big H). Writing this now, I smile because living that motto for him was probably a breeze because he had the biggest heart, and everything that he shared with all of us without a doubt came right from that big heart of his. I think about that piece of advice every day, especially now as I am a graduate physical therapy student at Columbia University, on my first clinical rotation working on the oncology floor of NYC’s biggest hospital. I would not be where I am today if it was not for his guidance and friendship. That piece of napkin was in my wallet for 2.5 years until recently I tacked it on the cork board that sits right above my desk.

Mr. Jones served so many people in our community. He was an inspiring leader to his hospital and Bloustein faculty and staff. He was one of Rutgers athletics biggest fans and supporters. He changed the lives of the students he taught and mentored. He reshaped healthcare in New Jersey. It goes without saying that his knowledgeable and intellectual “a’s” will be sorely missed. But his “H” will be a far…far greater loss. May his soul rest in peace, Loyal Son of Rutgers.

It is with a sad heart that I write this tribute to Professor Jones. He was a mentor with compassion and kindness rarely seen. He will be truly missed. I took him in undergrad for Ppopulation Health, and he instilled a passion and drive in me to address health equities and disparities which motivated me to pursue my MHA. My deepest condolences to the family and to the Bloustein school.

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