By RODNEY HOemail@example.com, filed Dec. 10, 2010
It was near the end of the semester so Rhubarb Jones shared eight pizza pies with his media management class at Kennesaw State University late last month as a reward. But he also announced a quiz for the next class. "It' s going to be fun!" he promised.
Fun? For Jones, fun is waking up in the morning and teaching college students. Nearly three years ago, Citadel Broadcasting shut down Eagle 106.7, replacing it with an oldies station. Jones' impressive 23-year run there as morning host was over. At age 56, future radio prospects looked grim.
Not that it was a surprise. "I had braced myself for it," he said. "The fun factor was gone. I could see them just slowly phasing me out." But taking a tenet he learned from his favorite film, "The Godfather," he didn't take it personally.
Instead, he had prepared a Plan B. In 2005 and 2006, he took masters degree classes at Shorter University majoring in leadership and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. He was ready to teach.
Better yet, when Citadel cut him, he still had 13 months left on his contract.
Within hours of the bad news, interim Kennesaw State athletic director and Jones' close friend Scott Whitlock called key school administrators to inform them Jones was available. He had a job the following Monday.
The pay is nowhere near what he got on radio. But as he noted, "money can't buy happiness."
Jones, who grew up in Tallapoosa and lives in East Cobb, teaches two classes a semester: media management and contemporary issues in media.
"You get attached to them," Jones said,of his students. "You start looking at them as your own kids. Some of them just need a little encouragement. I also remind them this is no longer a little community college. It's now the third largest university in Georgia."
Jones' strengths in radio - his likability and ability to connect with people - translate well in the classroom.
"He knows the media business," said Brian Harper, a 24-year-old Kennesaw State senior majoring in sports management and communications who'd like to work for ESPN. "We learn from his trials and tribulations on the job."
Jones still holds his annual golf tournament for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, raising $125,000 last year without radio support. And he fills in occasionally for Moby, his rival in the 1990s at Kicks 101.5. (Locally, Moby can be heard on South 107 in Rome and WNGC-FM in Athens.)
"He's a bigger man than me," Moby mused. "I was intentionally brutal to him for 11 years. Yet he has been nothing but gracious to me. I know he's loving teaching, helping baby broadcasters learn about the industry."
"He gets to keep his toes in the water," Moby added. "It's all kind of poetic, really."