In between visits with Vietnam’s prime minister and Indonesia’s energy minister, Raymond Jones recently made time for his alma mater, Clemson University.

Jones travels the world as a vice president with ExxonMobilProduction Company, but his roots will forever remain in the Upstate of South Carolina.

Raymond Jones, left, and his ExxonMobil colleague work in Papua New Guinea.

Raymond Jones, left, and his ExxonMobil colleague work in Papua New Guinea.

Jones graduated from Clemson with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering in 1986 and has been a devoted alumnus ever since, donating both time and treasure, especially to programs that support diversity.

When he returned to campus in April, it was to be inducted into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists. It’s the highest honor bestowed by the College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences.

“I am truly honored to be a part of tonight’s program and humbled to even to be considered as an inductee into the academy,” he said at the ceremony.

For nearly 32 years, Jones has risen through the ranks in one of the world’s largest companies.

Jones now focuses on the Asia Pacific region. His trip to Vietnam was for a multi-billion dollar project to drill offshore gas wells, bring the gas to shore, and convert it to electricity.

“In the areas we were, they don’t have electricity and they don’t have clean running water,” Jones said. “After we finish the project that we’re working on, they’ll have both.

Some projects he has overseen would at first seem a long way from the energy business. The company has built airstrips, schools, and hospitals, usually working in concert with the government, he said.

“You really have to come in and be a good neighbor,” Jones said. “We really want to improve the living conditions of the people around us. Those stories usually don’t get out.”

Jones said that as he grew up in Spartanburg in the 1960s and 1970s, his parents’ objective was to make sure that he and his siblings knew they could do anything if they put their minds to it and worked hard.

“It was not necessarily a time when African Americans were prospering,” Jones said. “We were getting there but not quite there. But my parents didn’t view it that way. They just said you’re going to make your own opportunities, and it’s up to you to do what you can do.”

Jones’ father, Edgebert, drove trucks for a living and then became logistics manager for a snack food company.

“He was one of the smartest men I knew, and he didn’t get past the 10th grade,” Jones said.

His mother, Clara, graduated high school and planned  to go to nursing school but decided to start the family instead. Jones has two siblings, Tim and Becky, who also have mechanical engineering degrees from Clemson.

Jones now lives in suburban Houston with Carla, his wife of 33 years, and two of their children, Zachary, a high school sophomore, and Chloe, a high school freshman. Their oldest child, Kara, is a computer science major at Texas Christian University.

Jones considers his wife his “compass and conscience.”

“If I’m heading off on a tangent somewhere, she’s the one that’s the mirror,” he said. “Everybody needs a mirror, someone to ask, ‘Do you really want to do that?’ You need someone who can be brutally honest.”

Before Jones graduated from Clemson, he never made it any farther west than Atlanta  or any more north than Charlotte. He has travelled a long way since then.

Jones said that sometimes when he’s in a far-flung locale such as Singapore or looking out at Kuala Lumpur from the world’s tallest building, he comes back to how it all happened and what his parents told him at home in Spartanburg.

“If you work hard, anything is possible,” he said. “Don’t limit yourself. Keep the boundaries away. Keep the options open. And with the good Lord’s intervention, things will happen.”