Alumna of the Year
is proof that
one person can
change the world
A breathtaking sweep of history surrounds
the life of Lora Jones ’43,
or En Ying Zhou as she is known
in China. The 2007 Seattle Pacific
University Alumna of the Year has weathered
more than her fair share of hardship and persecution
in her 93 years, yet her poised determination
and Christian faith remain
undeterred. Consider these essential facts:
From abandoned orphan to
SPU’s 2007 Alumna of the Year
Lora Jones embodies the
University’s vision to engage the
culture and change the world.
She is the guest of honor at
Born during the lifetime of the last emperor
of China, barely two years after his abdication
in 1912, she was abandoned outside the city
gate of Chengchow. In the 1930s, she lost a
romantic suitor when the Japanese bombed a
bridge over the Yellow River. She came to
America, graduated from Seattle Pacific, then
traveled home — halfway around the world
and across the Himalayas, evading World
War II hostilities. If that wasn’t enough for
one lifetime, Jones endured two decades of
privations and punishments during China’s
And now, here is China, communist and
capitalist, preparing to host the 2008 Olympic
Games. And here is Jones, enjoying the
fruits of her selfless life: children, grandchildren,
great-grandchildren, and a flourishing
Christian church in her homeland.
Try to sell this story to Hollywood, and it
would be rejected as farfetched. But for those
who know Jones, her life certainly has all of
the hallmarks of an epic drama. SPU Alumni
Director Doug Taylor agrees. Jones’ accomplishments,
he says, are all the more powerful
because of her “determined quiet.”
The alumna began her journey as an infant,
outside that fateful Chinese city gate in 1914.
A poor man saw the abandoned baby and
found a plump, well-dressed child. “He thought
I was a boy, and he could get a good price for
me,” says Jones.
Even though the baby turned out to be a
girl, the family kept her until, a few months
later, American Free Methodist missionary
Edith Jones entered the picture. While tending
to the poor of Chengchow, she noticed the
ailing baby, who now had lost all of her plumpness
and weighed less than 7 pounds. Jones, a
single missionary, agreed to take her from the
poor family, and later adopted the infant,
naming her Lora.
“Mother loved me more than things,” Lora
Jones remembers. “One day I accidentally broke
a hand-painted plate she brought from America.
I started crying, but my mother said, ‘That
plate is not as precious as my daughter’s tears.’”
Stanwood, Washington, resident John
Schlosser, who grew up with Jones as a fellow
child of missionaries, recalls that security in
China was sometimes uncertain. “Each child
had a little bundle prepared in case we had to
evacuate,” he says. But there were also idyllic
moments: “In the summer, we’d walk into the
mountains to read and play.”
As a teenager, Jones studied at a Presbyterian
high school, and at 16, she began a correspondence
with a young man who shared her
Christian beliefs. Tragically, her young suitor
was killed during a Japanese bombing raid.
This sorrow did not overwhelm her, however,
or deflect her ardent faith. In 1938, Edith
Jones returned to the United States on furlough,
enabling her daughter, then 24, to attend
college. Before enrolling at Seattle Pacific in
1941, she spent two years at Greenville College.
That’s how longtime friend and Warm
Beach Senior Community resident Margaret
Mack met Lora Jones — when Mack’s older
sister brought her home from school.
“Lora became a part of our family,” remembers
Mack. “She spent all the holidays with us.
She was delightful, so happy, friendly, and
gracious. And I also remember — Lora was
beautiful. She still is.”
After graduating from Seattle Pacific in
1943, Jones was offered a University of Washington
post as chair of the Chinese Department,
but she chose to go back to China to
work alongside her mother, who had already
returned to a church-supported orphanage.
That year of her graduation, accompanied by
a friend and amid World-War-II tumult, Jones
made the hazardous six-month journey home.
It took her through South America, Africa, and
India, before crossing the Himalayas.
As she settled into her work with orphans,
Jones followed her mother’s lead and adopted
three abandoned girls of her own. “I had so
many blessings, and there were so many little
girls who were homeless,” she explains.
But there was trouble ahead. By 1950,
communists were in power, and her mother
died. In 1959, Jones was forced to leave her
children after she was arrested and deemed an
anti-revolutionary for her links with America.
Receiving a 10-year sentence, she spent a
decade “lying low” on a prison farm.
Jones’ American friends, who had no
knowledge of her imprisonment, thought she
had simply disappeared — or worse. After
nearly 30 years of concern and anticipation,
a close family friend learned of her whereabouts
in Western China. Shortly after,
a childhood friend sent her a Christmas card.
“Tears ran down my cheeks to receive this
from my American family,” remembers Jones.
After a complete exoneration, Jones taught
English at China’s Lanzhou University while
devoting herself to building a church that now
flourishes. She still preaches there, in front of
hundreds of devoted followers.
It is a testament to her extraordinary life
that Jones received an honorary doctorate
from Seattle Pacific University in 2004. It is
also a witness to her reach in the world that
she was named this year’s Alumna of the Year.
“She is a stunning choice for this honor,”
says Taylor. “With her amazing courage and
longsuffering, she embodies the vision of
SPU. She has truly engaged the culture and
changed the world, making an impact wherever
God has placed her.”
Occasionally, Jones makes the long trek to
visit her “American friends.” Fluent in English,
she speaks quietly but with purpose, and displays
a surprisingly wry humor. Schlosser
recounts a visit in which she spoke at a church
service. “She said, ‘I have three daughters, six
grandchildren, and who knows how many
great-grandchildren. Really good for a single
woman, don’t you think?’”
Her young audience laughed and
applauded. “She’s a wonderful person, and
funny,” Schlosser adds. “Lora is one of the finest
people I have ever known.”
— by Connie McDougall
— photo courtesy of John schlosser
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