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Jones, Ingrid Saunders 1945–

Ingrid Saunders Jones 1945

Corporate executive, educator

Early Interest in Education

Sought Challenges in Corporate World

Interest in the Community


In many ways, Ingrid Saunders Joness journey is typical of a shift in black movement in the latter part of this century. While in the late 1800s and early 1900s, blacks tended to migrate from the South to the North looking for greater opportunity, Ms. Jones exemplifies the new trend in that she has gone in the opposite direction. She was born, raised and educated in Michigan, but it is in the Southern city of Atlanta, one of the most prominent symbols of the Confederacy, that she has earned her greatest successes. And her success has not benefited herself alone. Since 1990, the Coca-Cola Foundation, which she now heads, has given over $50 million in support of education.

Early Interest in Education

Ms. Jones, who claimed to still be a teacher in my heart, thinks that it is no wonder that she is so interested in advancing education. Her parents stressed the importance of education to her for as long as she can remember. In fact, they met as students at Knoxville College in Tennessee, so if it were not for their own emphasis on education, she would never have been born. They both went on to earn advanced degrees, one at University of Michigan and one at Wayne State University, also in Michigan. Ingrid was only following family tradition when she followed up her undergraduate degree in education from Michigan State University with an advanced degree in the same field from Eastern Michigan University.

After leaving school, Jones worked first as a public school teacher in the Detroit school system, and within two years she moved up to be executive director of the Detroit-Wayne County Child Care Coordinating Council. She went to Atlanta after winning an Atlanta Urban Fellowship in 1977. She was quickly part of the bustling political scene there, working for both of the two most powerful men in city politics, City Council President Carl Ware and then Mayor Maynard Jackson. In the late 1970s, Maynard Jackson was one of the most visible black men in American politics, and Jones worked as his executive assistant for almost three years, earning valuable experience at how to get things done.

Sought Challenges in Corporate World

It was her interest in the city that led Jones to the Coca-Cola Company as an assistant to the vice president of urban affairs who just happened to be Carl Ware, the former City Council President. Wares own movement from politics to Coke, shows that again Joness movement to the corporate world from the political world was typical of blacks of her generation who found increasing opportunity in the world of business that had formerly been closed to them. She quickly worked her way up through the ranks of Coca-Cola, and by 1988 she was an assistant vice president. Not long after, in 1991 she

At a Glance

Born Ingrid Saunders, December 27, 1945, Detroit, Ml; daughter of Homer L. Saunders and Georgia Lyles Saunders. Married: Jimmy Jones (divorced). Education: Michigan State University, East Lansing, BA, education, 1968; Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MA, education, 1972.

Career: Teacher, Detroit public schools, 1972-74; Child Care Coordinating Council, Detroit, Ml, executive director 1974-77; special assistant to Atlanta City Council, Atlanta, GA, 1977-78; legislative analyst for Atlanta City Council president, 1978-79; executive assistant to mayor of Atlanta, 1979-81; Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, GA, Director of Urban Affairs, 1982-88, assistant vice president urban and government affairs, 1988-92, vice president and manager, corporate external affairs, 1991-; Coca-Cola Foundation, chairperson, 1991-; Woodruff Arts Center corporate fundraising campaign, chairperson, 1994-95; Aaron Rents, director, 1995-.

Memberships: Board of directors, National Minority Supplier Development Council; board of directors, Atlanta Business League; board of directors, National Black Caucus of State Legislators Corporate Roundtable; member, Society of International Business Fellows; member, National Forum of Black Public Administrators.

Honors/awards: Atlanta Urban Fellowship, City of Atlanta, 1977-78; 100 Top Black Business & Professional Woman Award, Dollar and Sense Magazine, 1978; 100 Black Female Corporate Executives, Ebony Magazine, 1990.

Addresses: Coca-Cola Foundation, One Coca-Cola Plaza NW, Atlanta, GA 30313-3009.

was named vice president of corporate external affairs. She was also named chairperson of the Coca-Cola Foundation.

The Coca-Cola Foundation is a non-profit organization, funded primarily by an endowment from the Coca-Cola Company, dedicated to the promotion of excellence in education. Before Jones took over at the helm, the Foundation had been more varied in the ways it tried to support the community, but in 1985 education became the sole focus of the organization, making Jones a natural choice to head up the Foundation. When asked why education was important enough to preclude other worthy causes, Jones answered, We believe that by increasing individual opportunity, education can recast the economic and social future of the communities in which we live. Given this concern with providing new opportunity, it is appropriate that most of the Foundations support has gone to minority applicants. In the 1990s, the Foundation has supported more than 200 institutions of higher learning; it has given scholarships to more then 2,500 college students, and it has given millions of dollars more in support to graduate and professional students.

Interest in the Community

Although the Coca-Cola Foundation has given money world wide in support of its mission, there is a special emphasis on Atlanta. After all, this is our hometown, she told the Atlanta Constitution, and Atlanta is rich in educational institutions in a way that many other communities are not. Of course a large reason for this richness is the support which the Foundation has given to such Atlanta schools as Emory University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College.

Ingrid Saunders Jones has also found some very creative ways to support art education, something in which she fiercely believes. During the 1996 Olympics, which were held in Atlanta, the Coca-Cola Foundation sponsored a Cultural Olympiad to highlight the importance of the arts and the humanities in education. At the same time, she realized that for those who have not had the advantages that she has had, there must be some educational opportunities aimed just at helping people acquire the skills they need to obtain jobs, but once they have achieved those skills, they also must be able to go beyond purely economic survival. What were talking about, Jones told Ebony magazine, is tapping the potential, providing opportunity to allow the potential to come out.

Jones has given back to the community in many ways more than just through her position as chairperson of the Coca-Cola Foundation. She has served as the chairperson of the fundraising campaign for the Woodruff Arts Centerand surpassed her fundraising goal in doing so, no easy feat in a time of shrinking arts funding. She has also chaired the fund-raising campaign of the National Black Arts Festival. She has tutored and mentored students at Morehouse and Spelman Colleges. She took a leading role in helping Atlanta prepare for the Olympics, because fostering community pride is very important to this transplanted Northerner. In the end for Jones, it comes down to service. To put it in her own words, It is very important for successful companies and successful individuals to give back to the community it goes back to the quality of life. We wouldnt be where we are as a company, and I wouldnt be where I am as an individual, were it not for the community.


Ebony, March, 1997, p. 74.

Atlanta Constitution, October 1, 1996, p. C1

Essence, June 1996, pp. 78-79.

Atlanta Journal and Constitution, November 27, 1994, p. N2.

Atlanta Business Chronicle, November 25, 1991, p.l

Jim McDermott

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