WILSON, N.C. — August 30, 2018 — Ken Jones, Wilson business leader and retired Wilson Plant Manager of Merck and Company, Inc., will be honored at the fourteenth annual Wilson-Barton Partnership Leadership Award Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 20, on the campus of Barton College. The event, to be held on Center Campus, will begin at 6:30 p.m.
The Wilson-Barton Partnership, 14 years strong, began out of Barton’s desire to further strengthen its relationship with its hometown community of Wilson. In 2004, the Wilson-Barton Partnership Steering Committee was born and in 2005, the committee proposed an annual business leadership award to demonstrate the partnership that exists between the College and the business community. The selection criteria include: significant contributions to business and/or industry; strong leadership qualities; innovative and/or entrepreneurial qualities; and community oriented. And, as a salute to the community’s involvement in the livelihood and future of Barton, a portion of the funds raised are used to fund annual scholarships for current Barton students. The first Wilson-Barton Partnership Leadership Award was given that same year to Thomas A. Hackney, Jr., former Barton College Board Chair, trustee emeritus, and a widely respected business leader in Wilson for decades. The most recent distinguished awardees include Diane and Jerome Vick in 2014, Dr. Frank Batten in 2015, Lee Gliarmis in 2016, and Christy Proctor in 2017.
Tickets for the upcoming event are available at $75 per person and may be reserved by calling Summer Brock, director of donor relations and special events, at 252-399-6383. Sponsorship opportunities are available and begin at $750 for a table of eight. Advance reservations are required, and the deadline for reserving seats is Monday, Sept. 10, at 5 p.m.
Honoring Ken Jones —
A native of Virginia, Ken Jones was born on a small farm in the mountains of Virginia on the eastern border of the Blue Ridge Parkway in Amherst County. The third oldest of eleven children, Jones spent his childhood helping on the farm — planting and harvesting tobacco, picking apples in the fall with his father and brother, and harvesting pulp wood to help meet the family’s needs. During summer breaks from school, he also helped his grandfather with farm chores that included milking cows twice a day morning and evening. The work day on the farm was from sunrise to sundown, every day, come rain or shine. And, on that farm is where Jones developed his strong work ethic and time management skills.
When Jones was just 12 years old, his uncle encouraged the family the move to Corning, N.Y., for better work and educational opportunities. After completing high school in Corning, Jones continued his education at Corning Community College. His first job was with the Carrier Corporation in Syracuse, N.Y., where he also attended Syracuse University to complete his Bachelor of Science degree in Operation Management. Jones remarked that he was blessed to receive a scholarship that enabled him to continue his studies at the graduate level at Syracuse, where he also completed his Master of Business Administration degree in Finance and Marketing.
Not only did he earn two degrees while at Syracuse; Jones also met the love of his life, Wanda, who also was completing her graduate degree. They married in 1971, and after graduation in 1975, they moved to Evansville, Ind., where Jones began employment with Bristol Myers Squibb. The births of their three children, Kendra, Brandon, and Langston, made the family complete. While in Evansville, he held a variety of manufacturing operation roles, increasing in responsibility with each promotion. Eventually, Jones led the operation of the plant in Mount Vernon, Ind. And, in 1995, he was offered the opportunity to move to the Bristol Myers Squibb headquarters in Princeton, N.J. to serve as the Director of North American Planning Operations.
Jones had made a name for himself in the pharmaceutical industry. In 1996, after two decades with Bristol Myers Squibb, he made the decision to move to Merck and Company, Inc., in Whitehouse Station, N.J., as the Director of Manufacturing Services. After only one year, Merck appointed him as Senior Director of Pharmaceutical Operations at its West Point, Pa., site. Ten years later in 2007, the Wilson community was fortunate to welcome Jones as the Merck Plant Manager for its local site. He retired in 2012, but he did not slow down. His community was still calling him to serve.
“I have been blessed to meet and work with a number of wonderful people in Wilson who really care about this community,” Jones shared. “I have been equally blessed to serve in leadership positions, as well as in supporting roles for a wide variety of community organizations.”
Jones’ leadership roles have included Chair of the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, Chair of Wilson 20/20; Chair of Diversified Opportunities, Inc., Chair of Wilson Community College Board of Trustees, Wilson Community College Foundation Board Director, Co-Chair Wilson Heart Walk, Co-Chair for the Committee to Support the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, Construction Chair for the Wilson Habitat for Humanity, member of the Barton College Board of Trustees and member of the Barton College Board of Advisors, member of the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, member of the O.N. Freeman Roundhouse Museum Board, member of the BB&T Advisory Board, member of the Wilson OIC Board, member of the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park Board, secretary for the Preservation of Wilson, member of the Industrial Manufacturing Council, member of the Wilson Rotary Club. He also has led the refocusing of the 301 Improvement Committee, served with Meals on Wheels delivery, and supported CHEW and assisted with its food delivery.
“I enjoy doing things that, even in a small way, can lead to positive change,” added Jones. “The people with whom I have worked and volunteered have provided the energy to continue to be involved. This community improves when everyone works together for the betterment of everyone. My life has never been about accolades, honors, or recognition. What drives me is seeing a need and getting involved to make a difference.”
Jones had dreamed of completing graduate studies and eventually running his own manufacturing company. “While my dream didn’t turn out exactly as planned, the reward of working for both Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck have been a blessing and truly enjoyable experiences,” he noted. “I have particularly enjoyed working with the employees at the Wilson plant and becoming so involved in this community. My experience in Wilson has brought my purpose in life to full circle — to help others, and to bring people together to create a stronger, more cohesive, and sustainable community for all.