Charles Jones' living estate gift brings OU industrial engineering into a new era

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Travel was a shared love for Charles Jones and his late wife, Madelaine Pfau, including to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands. Jones recently established the first endowed chairs in OU’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Travel was a shared love for Charles Jones and his late wife, Madelaine Pfau, including to Antarctica and the Galapagos Islands. Jones recently established the first endowed chairs in OU’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

A $4.4 million gift to the University of Oklahoma Foundation has the capacity to transform OU’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering.

Charles Jones, a 1969 ISE alumnus from OU’s Gallogly College of Engineering, has committed $2.2 million to establish the Charles R. Jones Endowed Chair in Data Science and Analytics and $2 million to the new Madelaine Pfau Endowed Chair in Enterprise Leadership for Industrial and Systems Engineering.

“Data science and enterprise leadership are increasingly important to every engineering discipline,” said Gallogly College Dean and AT&T Chair John Klier.

“Having access to professors who are experts in these areas will position OU students well for their future careers and also offer opportunities to work closely with faculty on contemporary research problems, which will provide yet another level of qualification that will bring graduates to the top of hiring lists.”

Klier added the endowed positions will be the first two chairs in OU ISE since it was formed as a department in 1967. “Gallogly College is so grateful to have strong supporters like Charles.”

OU’s Charles R. Jones Endowed Chair will be an expert in data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning, areas impacting diverse fields like health care, manufacturing, government and industry. The Madelaine Pfau chair will be granted to a national expert in engineering leadership and organizational change through systems engineering.

Jones, a longtime ISE advisory board member and member of the Gallogly College of Engineering Board of Visitors, earned an MBA from Harvard and became a partner at such firms as McKinsey & Co. and Price Waterhouse.
“The two chairs will work together in a synergistic way to educate and produce OU graduates,” Jones said. “With their vision and passion, they will create something special not only for ISE, but for all the schools within Gallogly College and, ultimately, for the university.

“Tomorrow’s engineering leaders will have to master constantly advancing analytic tools and be equipped to function effectively as ‘translators’ or ‘pilots,’ leading large organizations in understanding and implementing process and organizational changes,” he said. “Those changes will be required by new tools developed by systems engineers that will impact all areas of life.”

Jones had planned for more than a decade to make a similar-sized bequest to OU as part of his estate. Instead, he chose to make the gift during his lifetime following the 2019 death of his wife of 36 years, Madelaine Pfau, who was an award-winning management consultant and managing partner at the executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles.

The last phase of Pfau’s 27-year-career with the firm was devoted to mentoring young consultants, Jones said. After she died, he received more than 100 sympathy cards from around the world. “Inside every one of them was a handwritten note about how much Madelaine meant to that person,” he added. “She never had too little time to stop, listen and help someone.”

Jones said his own career was formed by the guidance and teaching of the late OU Professor Robert Shapiro, who then served as department head. “He had the most profound impact on my life of anyone besides my wife. I have a deep, deep desire to pay back as best I can.”

Shiva Raman, current ISE director, said the Jones gift will be “catalytic” to the school’s growth.

“There are fewer than 20 similar schools with endowed chairs nationwide,” he said. “Having two chairs will be hugely important to how we build and leverage our programs. Top faculty and graduate students will flock to OU.

“Industrial and Systems Engineering will catapult into a completely different level.”