Valda Hicks Jones
Class of 1972
Serving her community has given Valda Hicks Jones the opportunity to touch people's lives in a positive way and in return those she served highly impacted her life, as well. Jones graduated from East Tennessee State University in May 1972 with a bachelor of science in Psychology. After graduation, she was employed in the field of Personnel Management at the Johnson City Press and later she was employed at Mountain Empire Bank in Johnson City. During this time, Jones served as President and Member of the Johnson City Personnel Association.
Wanting to change career paths, Jones obtained a real estate license in 1984 to sell properties in Tennessee. She worked for Northridge Properties until 1991. During this time, she was named Realtor of the Year in 1988.
Two years after the birth of her daughter, Lauren in 1989, Jones "retired" from full-time employment and began the most rewarding "profession" of her life – that of a "Do-Gooder."
Jones was invited to serve on the board of directors of Dawn of Hope Development Center in 1978. The Dawn of Hope is a nonprofit organization providing high quality, caring, individualized services to enrich the lives of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Northeast Tennessee. She continues to serve on their Operations Board today and is currently serving her second term as Chairman. Over the past 30 years or more, Jones has either served on and/or chaired their Foundation Board and the organization's capital campaign to raise $1 million to repurpose Stratton Elementary School, which now houses the Dawn of Hope's day facility.
In 1991, she was asked to serve as Founding Chair of The Suzuki School of Music (now known as the Academy of Strings). The school was founded with a gift of $50,000 from the late Mrs. Ruth Harris in memory of her son Chip Harris. This gift to establish an academy would use music as a tool to foster well-balanced children through arts education. Today, the organization provides music education to more than 80 students.
Also in that same year, Jones served as the campaign chair for The Crumley House. A dear friend of Jones', June Barrett, whose life was changed after an automobile accident left her 14 year old daughter with brain injuries, was raising local funds to obtain a grant from the Tennessee Division of Vocational Rehabilitation to establish The Crumley House Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center. Currently, the organization has brain-injured members from nine different states. They have seventeen brain-injured members living in 14 different apartments and 20 – 25 members who travel to the Limestone facility to attend the day rehabilitation program.
Other organizations that have benefited from Jones' enthusiasm and energy include the Johnson City Historic Zoning Commission in which she served for 12 years – two terms as chair. She currently serves on the Executive Council of Niswonger Children's Hospital and was a Founding Member of the Women's Fund of East Tennessee, a newly organized foundation whose mission is to provide grants to organizations that improve the lives of women and girls in East Tennessee. Jones, and her husband Tim, are both members of the ETSU Foundation and the Distinguished President's Trust.
Jones has been recognized for her public service and philanthropic efforts. In 2001, she was named Volunteer of the Year by the Community Rehabilitation Agencies of Tennessee. In 2004, she was awarded the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser by the Mountain Empire Chapter of the National Fundraising Executives. She, along with her husband Tim, has also been recognized for their good works. In 1999, they were named the Outstanding Philanthropists by the Mountain Empire Chapter of the National Fundraising Executives. The Chancellor for the Tennessee Board of Regents awarded the couple the Regents Award for Excellence in Philanthropy in 2010.
Little did Jones know what a huge role ETSU would play in her adult life. "From the classroom instruction to the corridors of Carter and Clement Halls - quite possibly the most important part of my educational experience was learning to "live" with others from very diverse backgrounds and work together to accomplish a common goal. Numerous friendships and memories of supporting and sharing in the challenges and excitement of the expansion of the Quillen College of Medicine and the Gatton College of Pharmacy have fostered a love for ETSU that compares to that of a lifelong friend. "
Besides her work in the community, Jones says her greatest joys are those of family, "I share my life with my true best friend, Tim, and all five children (Derby and Cassie Jones, Courtney and Shawn Fussell, Kathryn Jones, Erin and Andy Ross and Lauren Jones) and nine grandchildren – who have given me the greatest job title of all, YiaYia."