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1940s Stanford champ, philanthropist Vern Jones passes

Vern Jones, wrestling champ at Stanford University and in high school who went on to use his fortune gained from his drilling business to support the sport he loved, passed away last Sunday, Aug. 25 at his home near Sacramento, Calif. after suffering a stroke earlier that week. He was 93.

Vern Jones
According to the Stanford wrestling Facebook page, "from 1946-49, Vern posted an undefeated 4-year career for the Cardinals, winning three conference championships and acting as student-coach during his final two seasons."

Despite being long associated with Stanford and the state of California, Vernon Jones was born on May 1, 1925, in Minneapolis and grew up in the Midwest. It was there that Jones was introduced to wrestling, first at Proviso High School in suburban Chicago, then at Woodruff High in Peoria, where he won the 125-pound title at the 1942 Illinois state wrestling championships, becoming that school's first state mat champ.

After graduating from high school, Jones wrestled while serving as a naval aviator during World War II.

In 1945, Jones enrolled in Stanford University on the G.I. bill, studying petroleum geology and competing on the school's wrestling team. In the four years he wrestled as a Cardinal, he was undefeated, winning the Pacific Coast Conference Championship three times, according to the Sacramento Bee.

"Jones was known in the drilling industry as a trailblazer in mud logging, the science of recording and analyzing rock cuttings in drilling mud during the exploration process," the Sacramento newspaper continued. "He is remembered by friends and family for his generosity, donating liberally to organizations across California."

A few years after graduating from Stanford, Jones and a classmate launched the Exploration Logging Co., a geologic logging services firm that functioned as a consultant to well owners and producers. He developed the company into the largest organization of its kind, until his retirement in 1980.

"I think his early wrestling career proved his toughness," said Vern Jones' son Derek. "And he really carried that on into business."

Jones used his experience -- and fortune gained from his business venture -- to help support his college alma mater and the sport he loved.

"A generous philanthropist, he later provided financial stability for the program in years that it needed it most and eventually established the Vern Jones Wrestling Program Endowment in 2003," according to the Stanford wrestling Facebook page.

Here's what the Pac-12 conference said of Jones' generous gift 15 years ago.

"The establishment of the operating endowment will enable the Cardinal wrestling program to travel to the most competitive events in the country, in addition to expanding its recruiting efforts and capabilities."

"'When your program becomes financially self-sufficient, the coach and his staff can turn their focus to coaching, recruiting, marketing and developing a better product for everyone,' Chris Horpel, who served as Stanford wrestling head coach from 1980-2001, said. 'Coach Steve Buddie and his staff are doing an excellent job in every aspect and I am glad to have been part of this program for so many years.'"

"'For Vern Jones, wrestling has played a largely important role in his life,' Stanford head wrestling coach Steve Buddie said. 'He truly appreciated every aspect of his collegiate wrestling experience. His generous gift has now opened the door of opportunity to many young wrestlers who hope to have that same positive experience at Stanford. His gift has also lent instant credibility to this aggressive and highly important endowment campaign. We are forever grateful for Vern Jones' lifelong relationship with Stanford Wrestling.'"

That was not the extent of Vern Jones' involvement in wrestling long after he had stepped off the mat.

In 1999, Jones became the first-ever wrestler inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2015, he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, according to the Stanford wrestling Facebook page.

Jones is survived by his wife, Gloria, and two children, Derek and Sandra.

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