From singing to teaching: Intensive English Director retires after 43 years at WSU


Courtesy photo of Leisy Aimee

Sally Jones at her retirement party on March 24, 2023. Jones retired after 43 years at Wichita State.

Intensive English Director Sally Jones worked at Wichita State for 43 years, but first came to Wichita State in 1968 with her Christian-folk-rock singing group. 

Jones grew up in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Nebraska before going to school at the University of Nebraska for two years. She then moved down to Wichita with her band to study at Wichita State together.

“(The band) was a lot of fun,” Jones said. “There was some kind of conference and the group sang at it, and they asked me to audition. So I did, and they said ‘come join us,’ so I did.”

Jones received her bachelor’s degree in Communication, Sciences and Disorders, before taking a year off to work in the department of logopedics, a speech-language pathology. After the year off, she attended graduate school at WSU and got her master’s. 

After her master’s, she received a practicum, until the job was eliminated.

“I was doing practicum in speech and language therapy, and the government wiped out my job because I was working with military dependent children at McConnell, Air Force Base in Derby,” Jones said. “And they decided to exclude speech … rehab from their campus insurance policy.”

“So I had to find a job because we were buying a house at the same time,” Jones said, laughing. 

Jones then went to work as a paralegal for seven years, mainly focusing on medical malpractice defense.

“Then I got a call from my friend who was also from communication sciences and disorders, and she said ‘Intensive English is looking for a teacher, are you interested?’ I said, ‘Yeah. I am,’” Jones said. 

In January of 1981, Jones was back at Wichita State, without the band, teaching. Jones started out teaching one class a day, and gradually moved to full-time. 

In 2004, Jones was promoted to interim director before becoming Intensive English director in June of 2005. 

Barbara Mazzasilhan, a teaching professor of Intensive English, arrived at WSU 40 years ago when she met Jones.

“I think she really and truly cared about the students, about the faculty and about the department and the survival of the department,” Mazzasilhan said. 

Mazzasilhan said Jones was always there to give advice and share teaching materials. 

“She was just a very caring individual,” Mazzasilhan said. “My father passed away when I was 28, and so I was in Oklahoma City, and this was before cell phones, so she called me every day to see how I was.”

Jones had been looking forward to retirement for a few years before this year, but before she could, three “crises” unfolded.

“The first one was the banning of Muslim students from coming to the U.S. and because it was a time of crisis, I didn’t feel I could leave,” Jones said. “Then covid hit and I didn’t feel I could leave. 

The last “crisis” was when Jones was tasked to move Intensive English from where it resided on 1741 North Hillside St. to Lindquist. 

“That is a positive crisis because it was a crisis for a while as far as getting everything arranged.”

Jones said while she’ll miss the people and the students, she won’t miss getting up at 6:45 a.m. every day. 

“First of all, I’m going to catch up on my sleep,” Jones said. “And I’m going to read.”

Jones said she’s loved working in the program for 43 years. 

“I have met some wonderful people,” Jones said. “I always say ‘I guess I like my job because I’m still working.’”

Jones said the Intensive English program treated her well over the years.

“There’s been hard times; there have been sad times, there have been glorious times; there’s been days full of joy,” Jones said. “But you have to take the good with the bad because it always works that way.”