Renaissance man: Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, the district deputy commander is an engineer and artist

Jeffrey Henon
Public Affairs Office

Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, deputy commander, Portland District

You know Lt. Col. Cullen Jones is the Portland District deputy commander and might also know he is a professional engineer with a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. What you probably don’t know is he is also an artist and the definition of a “Renaissance man.”

Jones was inspired to become an Army engineer after he read “The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal,” 1870–1914 by David McCullough, which he said is “An amazing story of one of humanity’s greatest engineering triumphs.”

While attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, and on his way to becoming the Army engineer he once dreamed about, Jones received another inspiration.

“As a cadet, one of my teachers and eventually one of my mentors, (retired Brig.) Gen. Steve Ressler is a phenomenal pen-and-ink artist. It was inspiring to see a consummate engineer who was also a great artist and superb craftsmen,” Jones said. “He is the epitome of a renaissance man and I thought, ‘An engineer officer who’s teaching at West Point who’s also an artist… I should try that, too.’”

After assignments in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and multiple locations in the United States, Jones returned to West Point as an assistant professor for the Design of Reinforced Concrete and Masonry Structures class.

“We taught in five colors of chalk and I had an extra chalkboard in my office, so I took a famous painting and replaced the subjects with students and instructors,” Jones recounted. “Gen. Ressler who was now the department head, said ‘I hope you know you’ll be doing one of those every two weeks now.’”

Jones rewarded his students that did well with high-quality photographic prints of his chalkboard drawings. The prints were so popular, his students collected and traded them like baseball cards.

Jones is still giving his artwork away as gifts for a job well-done. Instead of chalk drawings, he now gives away numbered reproductions of the pen-and-ink drawings he creates with every career move.

“I try to commemorate each of my assignments with something. I did one for my brigade and the surveyor was based on my time during my fellowship,” Jones said. Jones is currently taking on his most challenging commemorative work yet.

“There’s this great iconic Portland District picture of one of the turbines at Bonneville Dam surrounded by workers that I’m working on,” Jones said. “It’s a massive and complex photograph that I’m trying to boil down to its essence to provide enjoyment to others.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of “Renaissance man” is “a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas.”

Jones, who draws to, “exercise the other side of my brain,” epitomizes the definition.