Vanessa Jones, C’97, L’01, is no stranger to the University of Richmond or the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. In addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies through SPCS and a juris doctor degree through the Richmond School of Law, Jones is actively involved as a member of the SPCS Dean’s Ambassadors Circle and the Law School Alumni Association Board of Directors.

As the 2015 Gibb Family Distinguished Alumna, Jones earned the privilege of addressing graduating students during SPCS Commencement Exercises on May 9, 2015. Jones opened her previously recorded remarks (she was unable to attend in person) with a startling claim: “I had no idea that when I enrolled into what was then called ‘University College’ in 1991 that my life would change forever. That may sound cliché, but it is truth.”

Jones encouraged graduating students to recognize the day’s accomplishment as both an end destination and a beginning point. “This chapter of your life has successfully ended with an extraordinary accomplishment,” she noted as she shifted their focus to the future. “I encourage you to fill the next chapter of your life with bigger goals and more impossible dreams. There is more to your life story than today’s accomplishment.”

In addition, Jones urged graduating students to make a difference in the lives of others by seeking out ways to serve.

“As you continue your journey, I also challenge you to devote your gifts and talents to encourage, inspire and promote the lives of others.”

Jones concluded by exhorting graduates to live lives that matter, that live up to the motivation and encouragement given by professors, colleagues, family and friends.

“Your life should speak louder than words,” she reminded listeners, “so that someone can look at you and see you as an example to push through any and all obstacle, fear or pressure that we will all face during life’s journey. Be that inspiration for yourself, and for others.”

Jones serves as juvenile and domestic relations district court judge for the 12th Judicial District of Virginia, which includes Chesterfield County and Colonial Heights. She was elected by the Virginia General Assembly to the judgeship in November 2014 and assumed office for a six-year term on January 1, 2015. She was voted a “Rising Star Super Lawyer” by Richmond Magazine five times from 2007 to 2011 and was awarded the Influential Women of Virginia Award by Virginia Lawyers Weekly in 2011.

Jones is active in her community, having served on the board of directors for Safe Harbor, the junior board for the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Church Planning Committee at New Covenant Apostolic Church.