Law was a second career for Mesa Community College alumnus Lyle Jones, who has been practicing since 2006. In that time, he has worked in private practice, served as a public defender, sat as magistrate judge over the Tipton County, Tennessee Juvenile Court, and currently hears disability cases as a United States Administrative Law Judge for the Social Security Administration.
“I’m very proud to serve as an Administrative Law Judge,” says Jones, who graduated from MCC in 2000. “Deciding disability cases really gives me the opportunity to make sure that people are being treated fairly by the agency.”
When asked about what he remembers from being an MCC student, Jones responds with fond memories of the campus wildlife. “The rabbits! Are they even still on campus?” (They are, and in abundance).
As intrigued as he was with the wildlife, Jones was focused on academic success and sought enrollment as a continuing education student. Prior to enrolling at MCC, he served in the United States Marine Corps.
Jones signed up for the Marines right after high school and served on active duty until he and his wife, Julie (an alumna of the MCC Nursing program, and manager of outpatient clinics at St. Jude), decided to pursue their higher education. After the couple moved to Arizona, Lyle enlisted in the Arizona National Guard. His entire military service spanned the course of two decades.
“My time on active duty gave me a positive look at what I was capable of accomplishing. Probably the most important thing I learned in the Corps was how to evaluate and set goals, and then work hard to achieve them.”
Jones knew there was something he wanted to do that he could not reach while on active duty. “I’m not really sure how I decided to become a lawyer,” he admits. “I’m the first lawyer in my family.”
The path to achieving this goal, though not as extreme as a life on active duty, was still an intense one. “I went to the veteran services office, and because it had been so long since high school, I took an assessment to see where I was at academically. The results broke my heart,” he remembers. “Here, I wanted to be a lawyer, but I had to take remedial math!”
Yet, this didn’t discourage him, even when he needed some ‘tough’ love. “I told my advisor that I wanted to take fencing. His response was, ‘Let’s get you through math and English first, and if you can handle that, we’ll talk about fencing.’ Exactly the right words and the right mindset I needed to hear,” Judge Jones says.
What he lacked in an educational foundation, Jones made up for in his goals and a drive to help others. “MCC met me where I was academically, and gave me what I needed to succeed.” After MCC, he could immediately start upper division classes at Arizona State University, where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree and eventually earned his juris doctorate from ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
All along the way, after a dual career in service to his country and to others, Jones has never forgotten the Thunderbirds. “I think what I appreciated most about MCC was that the professors and administrators took time to give genuine feedback on my work. I truly felt they were interested in my success.”
Although Jones planned on retiring from the reserves after law school, his unit received warning orders about activating for duty in Iraq during his final semester. As a result, he spent all of 2005 deployed with his unit. When he returned, he and his wife moved to Tennessee to begin their new lives.
Jones remains steadfast in bridging his Marine Corps and legal training in his day-to-day activities. “I feel almost like it’s come full circle, and the time I spent in the Corps and in the National Guard was just preparation for a life of service.”