Eric Reece Jones
If Eric Reece Jones listens closely, he can hear the screams from his office. All day, every day, as thrill seekers fall thirteen full stories on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: par for the course, at Walt Disney World.
“We’re in the business of bringing happiness and smiles to families and guests,” says Jones, Manager of Finance for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. He’s part of the Attractions and Entertainment Finance team, and given his own history it seems entirely appropriate that his window faces one of the most exciting attractions in the park.
Jones was recruited for Cornell’s football team from high school, but soon moved on to other ventures, like traveling the country doing stunts for MTV’s “Road Rules.” “I found myself experiencing things I never expected,” says Jones, “fear factor stuff,” like navigating an obstacle course, blindfolded—150 feet in the air. The experience with extreme sports whetted his interest in entertainment and ultimately helped him decide on his career direction.
But taking a leave of absence from Cornell for “Road Rules” was not an easy decision. Ken Gabard, Assistant Dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, was instrumental in making the opportunity possible for Jones. “He’s a great individual who I respected and with whom I became friends,” says Jones, adding that he’s stayed in touch with Gabard since graduating.
Having a Blast
Jones says he chose Cornell because he felt it would meet the three criteria by which he judges the chapters of his life: have a good time doing it; meet some great individuals; and learn something. “I felt I would learn how to learn at Cornell,” he explains. “Therefore I would have a set of tools to deal with any problems or obstacles in the future.” Cornell proved the right choice, says Jones, adding “I always had a blast.”
The summer before classes started, Jones took an introductory course in microeconomics. He found it so interesting that he decided to major in economics, and early in his studies began to focus on finance.
The Show That Goes On
After graduating, Jones worked his first two years as an analyst at Morgan Stanley, in the global capital markets. Jones then decided to pursue an MBA, choosing to study at UCLA Anderson because of the school’s expertise in entertainment and entrepreneurship.
Right after graduate school, Jones joined The Walt Disney Company. He calls himself a “Disneyphile” now and says the company meets his criteria for a good place to work: it adds value to society, its “Cast Members” (employees) are intelligent, and it offers an opportunity to grow. “And I enjoy being a part of the show that goes on,” Jones adds, since his efforts help decide which attractions and entertainments get added to Walt Disney World.
Life at Cornell
A “Florida kid” born and bred, Jones found the cold weather of Ithaca a radical contrast to the year-round beach weather of Ft. Lauderdale. But he discovered the benefits during a small blizzard, when he took a break from studying for finals with his friends to head out in the snow for some fun. Jones remembers it as one of many special experiences at Cornell.
Jones’ membership in Quill and Dagger, the “secret” senior honor society, was also a great experience. “It has a positive impact on the campus and community—and that’s all I’m allowed to talk about,” says Jones firmly, refusing to divulge any other details.
As a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity, Jones got involved with many community organizations. His connections with the athletes at Cornell proved particularly useful with the Big Brother-Big Sister of Ithaca program. “We took underprivileged kids to sports games at Cornell,” Jones explains, “then brought them onto the field after the game to get autographs and meet the players.”
Staying in Shape
Jones’ efforts on behalf of young people didn’t end with college. He’s involved as an official at high school football games throughout central Florida. “It makes me stay in shape,” he says with a laugh. “And it’s a good way to stay active in the community.”
Instead of extreme sports, Jones gets his thrills now from travel. Every year he goes someplace in the United States, often with friends from Cornell, and every other year he takes an international trip. It helps him remember that “no matter where you’re at, life is a roller coaster and you have to enjoy the bumps through the journey."
“I’m making the most out of my life,” adds Jones. “I enjoy what I do.”