Computer scientist instrumental in CU Boulder’s use of the internet dies of ALS

Richard Arthur Jones, 76, helped the university be one of the first campuses to use NSFNET

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article misstated Susan Barney Jones was the mother of Richard Jones’ children. She was their stepmother. The article below has been corrected.

A University of Colorado Boulder computer scientist who was instrumental in getting the university onto the internet died last month due to complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

Richard Arthur Jones.(Courtesy Photo)

Richard Arthur Jones, 76, was born in Oklahoma but spent most of his life in Boulder, according to his obituary. He took university math courses while in high school, eventually dropping out to attend Tulsa University and then Stanford University. He received a master’s degree in math at CU Boulder.

A memorial service will be at 3 p.m., June 21 at Unity of Boulder Church on Folsom Street in Boulder.

In 1970, Jones was hired by CU Boulder to assist on a project with the state highway department. Ken Klingenstein worked with Jones during his time at the university. In 1985, Klingenstein was named director of Academic Computing Services and he left in 1999.

“Richard was one of the first people I met, and he had a unique niche in that he was supporting some legacy services that the computer center was operating for the state highway department,” he said.

At the time, computers were “pretty scarce,” Klingenstein said, and CU Boulder had one of the few powerful computers in the area.

The university was one of the first U.S. campuses to join the National Science Foundation Network, or NSFNET, and the John von Neumann Supercomputing Center, according to Klingenstein. Jones was instrumental in that process, Klingenstein said.

Even more than his computer science skills, Jones was known for his “uncommon integrity.” Klingenstein said he always knew he could rely on Jones to “shoot straight” about issues, while others might just say what he wanted to hear.

Jones also worked well with customers, scientists and others at the university.

“I think they could tell that they were dealing with somebody with character, and I could rely on him to carry messages both directions without inserting any personal views,” Klingenstein said. “He represented the user and the university well.”

In addition to his work, Jones also was involved with the Colorado Mountain Club. He joined in 1969 and was a lifetime member, according to marketing director Brittany Smith.

He was a consistent donor to the club, and also supported the American Alpine Club Library and the American Mountaineering Museum. He attended the annual group dinner in Boulder for the club and went on an adventure trip to Yellowstone National Park, Smith said.

Klingenstein said Jones’ involvement with the Colorado Mountain Club was “inspirational” to him.

“I was aware of him being multidimensional,” he said. “… Richard was a reminder of the fact that life was big and it’s about more than just work.”

Jones is survived by his wife, Susan Barney Jones; his two children with former wife Alice Shaw and three grandchildren.

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