A portrait of David Jones.
Photo Courtesy: Humana

David Jones was the visionary businessman who founded Humana, one of the largest insurance companies in the nation. His endeavors began as a 78-bed nursing home in his hometown of Louisville, Ky., which became a network of hospitals and then turned into the insurance giant it is today. Under his leadership, the company pioneered medical technology and research, while remaining an affordable and humanistic care provider.

His life story shows how exploration of the world and staying true to our roots can go hand-in-hand. For Jones, the road to success involved experimenting with a variety of business ideas, from nursing homes to trailer parks until he found the right opportunity. Raised in poverty on the west side of Louisville, he turned an initial investment of $1,000 into a billion-dollar corporation. He retired from Humana after 44 years as chairman of the company.

At the peak of his career, Jones began looking for ways to give back to his community. A benevolent philanthropist, his contributions helped improve public education in Louisville and all over Kentucky. His generous donations reached Berea as well, helping the College fund overseas studies for students. The David Jones Wild and Crazy Fund aids international travel programs that are not supported by traditional funds. His contribution to the Alfred A. Gilman and Francis C. W. Wei Fund in 1989 helps the College library purchase books on sinology and is an additional aid for Chinese students at Berea. The David and Betty Jones International Scholarship provides cost of attendance support for international students who do not receive U.S. federal student aid.

“I never set out to be a corporate mogul, he told the Washington Post in a 1985 interview. “I guess what I wanted was independence. I achieved financial independence, but when you take on responsibility, independence is hard to preserve.” His contributions to Berea are intended to help students discover their own paths to independence via experiences far away from home. 

Experiences away from home can also foster a new outlook of one’s birthplace. After earning his law degree from Yale University, gaining that sort of broadened outlook, Jones returned to his hometown to build his entrepreneurial career. This is also part of his vision for supporting Berea students.

Jones was known for his modest personality and always reserved a portion of his earnings and attention for the communities that helped him grow. He passed away in September 2019, but his legacy lives on in the students who experience the world because of his generosity.

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