Less than a week after Saturday’s public ceremony celebrating Ohio Governor Ted Strickland’s formal inauguration, two Miami University alumnae are busy preparing to take office as some of the newest appointments to Strickland’s cabinet.
Dec. 21, Strickland announced the appointments of Helen Jones-Kelley as the director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services and Mary Jo Hudson as director of the Ohio Department of Insurance.
Both Jones-Kelley and Hudson received their bachelor’s degrees from Miami.
While Hudson and Jones-Kelley were appointed in December, many Miami graduates have occupied offices all over the state, according to Randi Thomas, Miami’s director of institutional relations.
Thomas said that while it may be too early to see the impact of Jones-Kelley’s and Hudson’s appointments, Miami’s image benefits from having graduates in state offices.
“Obviously, any time our alumns do well we’re very excited about it,” he said. “Miami may not get anything tangible out of it, but (it is) the fact that our graduates are the leaders we know them to be.”
Thomas said Jones-Kelley’s appointment to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services could generate more emphasis on Miami’s Scripps Gerontology Center. Jones-Kelley began to study at the center before going to law school.
Overall, Thomas said any ties to Miami help his work promoting the university’s interests in state and federal government.
“I think any time you are dealing with people that are familiar with the campus … you’re just one step closer to having them experience what goes on here,” Thomas said.
Jones-Kelley became very familiar with Miami’s campus when she earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary English education in 1973. She said her Miami education helped her develop the skills she needed to pursue her goals.
“Miami’s such a wonderful learning experience,” she said. “Just using the name ‘Miami’ opens so many doors for you, opens so many possibilities.”
Jones-Kelley said her advice to Miami graduates would be to follow their passions when deciding on a career.
“Nobody should leave there with the idea of going to work,” she said. “I don’t work. I get to come to this place everyday and live out my passion of serving people. I never work.”
For Jones-Kelley, that passion took a few years to get to. While her degree was in education, she decided teaching wasn’t for her.
“I probably haven’t quite decided what I want to be when I grow up,” Jones-Kelley said.
After graduation, she worked for a bank before deciding to take a job at the Cincinnati Recreation Department where she worked for nine years.
While working at the Recreation Department, she also continued her studies at Miami’s Scripps Gerontology Center. However, after almost a decade at the department, she decided to take her own advice and pursue her real passion: advocacy, particularly child advocacy, through the practice of law.
She went on to earn her law degree from the University of Dayton School of Law and later served as the executive director of the Montgomery County Children Services Department.
This year, she was named the director of the Montgomery County Department of Jobs and Family Services, and about three and a half weeks ago she said she received an unexpected phone call to join Strickland’s cabinet.
According to Jones-Kelley, Miami was a great place to develop the leadership skills she has needed in her career.
“I think Miami prepared me in a number of ways,” she said. “I got an opportunity to become involved in what could be uncomfortable settings initially.”
Those uncomfortable settings – including her membership on the Community Chest, what she said is now the United Way, and serving as president of Delta Sigma Theta -forced her to develop leadership skills, she said. She also stood out as a special projects reporter for The Miami Student.
Jones-Kelly said that then-President Phillip Shriver and other professors, particularly her first-year English professor, took an interest in her.
“President Shriver was wonderful when I was there,” she said. “I think he was a very caring professor and president.”
As one of only 22 black students at Miami at that time and the first person in her family to go to college, she said she felt pressure to succeed.
“I think I felt I really needed to distinguish myself,” she said. “I was the first one in my family to go to college and especially for my grandmother, who helped pay for me to be there.”
Today Jones-Kelley has four daughters, one who is a first-year student at Miami.
Like Jones-Kelley, Hudson received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Miami. She studied public administration at Miami and went on to earn a law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
Before her appointment to The Ohio Department of Insurance, Hudson was a member of the Columbus City Council. There, she chaired the Jobs and Economic Development Committee and also worked as an attorney.
Thomas said Miami’s presence in state government is not uncommon, as Bowling Green State University and Ohio University both have numerous graduates in state office.
Jones-Kelley and Hudson join a long list of Miami graduates who hold state office, Thomas said. David Goodman, senator from Ohio’s 3rd District, and Kevin Bacon, representative from House District 21, both graduated from Miami before going on to law school. Steven Driehaus, representative from District 31 and Ohio House of Representatives minority whip, graduated from Miami as well.