Calling Ingrid Saunders Jones “the heart and soul of the company,” Muhtar Kent, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company announced the donation of $1 million in her honor to the historic National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).
Jones, who retires next month from Coke after 31 years, was elected chair of the NCNW last summer. At the gala celebration on May 1 at the Fernbank Museum, Jones said “turning the nonprofit around” will be her focus after her
career at Coke.
“I claim it here tonight,” Jones said after receiving many tributes from colleagues and the community, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
She expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the gift in her honor for the organization founded by Mary McCloud Bethune and headed for years by the late Dorothy Height.
The surprise announcement and tributes brought Jones to tears. She said she had “practiced” not crying, but was unable to contain herself as she listened to speaker after speaker say how much she has meant to them personally and to the larger community.
Beside Kent, both of her two direct bosses sang her praises. Retired Coke executive Carl Ware talked about working with her at City Hall when he was president of the Atlanta City Council and how he was thrilled that she accepted his offer to come work for him in 1982 after he was hired by The Coca-Cola Company.
Alexander Cummings, chief administrative officer of Coke and her current boss, said he was grateful for the work that reputation that Jones has given the company worldwide.
In addition, Helen Smith Price, spoke on behalf of Jones’ team at Coke. She brought a smile of recognition to many faces when she talked about Jones’ attention to detail.
“To say she is a detail person is an understatement,” Price said. “She not only wants the details, but she wants the details behind the details.”
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed praised Jones for her dedication to the city, as well as to The Coca-Cola Company. He noted that Jones had worked for former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson before joining The Coca-Cola Company. And after he was elected mayor in 2009, Reed said he met with Jones, who offered her support and counsel.
“She said I’ll probably be the last mayor that she gets to train,” Reed said with a smile.
In addition, several of the Morehouse College students that Jones has mentored stood in celebration of her work with them. She has worked with the student leadership development program since its inception.
Alicia Phillip, president of The Community Foundation, spoke on behalf of the “elders,” several women who have worked with Jones over the years in philanthropic activities here and around the nation. Former Depart of Labor Secretary and Coca-Cola Diversity Council Chief Alexis Herman also praised Jones for her skills at pulling people together for a common good.
A native of Detroit, Jones came to Atlanta in a fellowship program to work at City Hall during Maynard Jackson’s first term as mayor. Jackson was elected the first African-American mayor of a major Southern city in 1973. She began her career as a teacher and used her skills in government and corporate America to make the world her classroom.
(Photo: Muhtar Kent (from left), CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, shows a proclamation that was issued in honor of Ingrid Saunders Jones’s retirement after 31 years from the company, as she and Alexis Herman look on. The proclamation and a $1 million gift from Coke to the National Council of Negro Women were among the many tributes made at the gala reception on May 1 at Fernbank Museum.)