United States Army Staff Sergeant (Retired) and three-time Syracuse University alum, Richard M. Jones, was born and raised in Utica, New York. Rich comes from a military family and his passion for service was inspired by their service. His paternal grandfather was a member of the 29th Infantry Division, one of the first soldiers to land at Omaha Beach.
His maternal grandfather served as a member of the 721st Railway Battalion in the China-India-Burma Theater, and his grandmother was a Naval Officer and nurse who served at the Brooklyn Navy Yard throughout World War II. His father served in the United States Army as a member of the 16th Military Police Brigade during the Vietnam War. Rich’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer during his senior year of high school. Before his father died, Rich told his dad that he was going to join the Army to help support the family.
Rich enlisted in the United States Army in June 1983 as an 11B (Infantryman), was assigned the rank as a Private (E-1), attended Basic, Infantry, and Airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, and then attended grueling selection courses, including the Ranger Indoctrination Program and Ranger Operator Programs at Hunter Army Airfield and Fort Benning, becoming a member of the elite 75th Rangers. Rich went on to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger, and he earned his way through the ranks becoming a Non-Commissioned Officer, a Staff Sergeant E-6, and a Squad Leader. He served honorably and with distinction for six years in both the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 10th Mountain Division.
Nearly five years after enlisting, and having just reenlisted for six more years, while participating in an Airborne Assault Training Mission, Rich was seriously injured suffering severe spinal cord injuries, including fractures to his neck, back, legs and feet because of a parachute malfunction. Rich spent nearly a year at Walter Reed Army Hospital, undergoing several surgeries and extensive rehabilitation.
The most devastating moment in Rich’s military career was when Colonel Bruce Van Dam, the Army’s Chief of Orthopedics at Walter Reed Army Hospital and legendary Army Infantry Officer and Ranger, Colonel Jack Keane, told him that his military career was over.
Facing depression, anxiety, trauma, great pain, and physical limitation, not to mention the disappointment of losing the long military career he had planned, Rich entered one of the most uncertain periods of his life. As a result of his injuries, Rich was medically retired from the military and returned home to Central New York. However, unbeknownst to him, fate had other things in store. While on convalescent leave from Walter Reed, at a dinner held by his family, Rich met the love of his life, Robin. They will celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary On November 17th.
Unsure of what the future would hold, with no education beyond high school and the Army, Rich sought the assistance of the Veterans Administration (VA) and took an occupational test that showed that becoming a CPA might be a suitable career choice. A week later while attending an appointment at the Syracuse VA Medical Center to undergo an MRI and an ENG, he stared out the hospital window at the Syracuse University campus.
As Rich puts it, “I decided that this was my ‘shoot, move and communicate’ moment.” He made the decision to hobble across Irving Street on crutches, up the hill’s covered stairs (all 86 steps), and he eventually made it across campus and found his way to the office of Horace Landry, Professor Emeritus of Accounting in the Whitman School of Management, and a WWII Navy veteran. Professor Landry listened intently to Rich’s story, about his injuries and his concern about his future and transitioning to higher education. Professor Landry encouraged him to apply for admissions and that he was confident that Rich’s hard work and persistence would take care of the rest.
With this guidance and the great support of the Syracuse University Community, Rich set his mind on becoming a CPA. While working as a tax and audit intern, Rich completed his studies and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree (summa cum laude). He passed the CPA exam after graduation and continued to work as an auditor for Ernst & Young. With the encouragement and guidance of fellow veterans, Rich decided to attend Law School and later received his Law and Business degrees from Syracuse University, where he graduated with honors and was admitted to The Order of the Barristers.
Rich went on to pass multiple bar exams and was admitted to practice before the Courts of New York, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia and is licensed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Tax Court. He also received a Master of Laws degree from Boston University School of Law. The greatest honor that Rich has ever received was to be awarded the George Arents Award, which is the highest award presented to a Syracuse University alumnus.
Today, Rich is the Executive Vice President, General Tax Counsel, and Chief Veteran Officer for Paramount Global. He is the Board Chair for Syracuse University’s Office of Veteran and Military Affairs (OVMA), and a board member of the D’Aniello Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Rich, Robin, his daughter Barbara, and his son Rhys, live in Bedford, New York.