Sam H. Jones


IUPUI Chancellor's Medallion (2001)
IUPUI Chancellor's Medallion
Location: Indianapolis
Honorary Degree (1999)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Location: Indianapolis
Presenter: Myles Neil Brand
IUPUI Spirit of Philanthropy Award (1994)


Sam Jones, president and CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League, has dedicated his 44-year career to reaching out to every segment of the community with the mission of achieving social and economic equality for African Americans. He has remarked that his whole life has been about building bridges. Those whose lives he has touched concur.

"In Indianapolis, you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not know of Sam's work or who has not benefited in some way from Sam's engagement with community issues and organizations," says IUPUI Chancellor and IU Vice President for Long-Range Planning Gerald Bepko.

Jones earned his bachelor of arts degree from Clark College and his master of social work degree from Atlanta University (both now known as Clark Atlanta University). He began his long and auspicious career with the Urban League in 1955 as the industrial relations secretary and director of vocational education at the Cleveland affiliate. He served as the executive director of the Pontiac, Michigan, Urban League, 1961-1963, and executive director of the St. Paul, Minnesota, Urban League, 1963-1966. In August 1966, Jones became the first executive director of the Indianapolis Urban League, a position he still holds.

Under Jones' leadership, the Indianapolis Urban League has become a network for information on urban issues such as poverty, housing, health care, crime, citizenship education, and employment. The Urban League provides Indianapolis with scholarships for higher education; job counseling and placement; community forums and conferences; and G.I.T.I.T., an anti-drug program for youth. Jones' service on a myriad of community boards creates synergies between the mission of the Urban League and the goals of other community organizations. He. also provides a bridge between the community and higher education, serving on the Martin University Board of Directors and the IUPUI Board of Advisors. As a member of the IU School of Nursing's Diversity and Enrichment Council, says University Dean Angela Barron McBride, Jones brought "a fresh perspective to the group regarding concerns and desires of the minority community, and was an effective spokesperson in communicating the mission and goals of the school back to the community."

Jones' community involvement has also extended to the Near North Development Corporation, the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, and the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee. He is a member of the Concerned Clergy and the Boy Scout Council of Central Indiana.

His efforts have not gone unnoticed by those who have witnessed the scope of Jones' civic engagement and the extraordinary vigor with which he has advocated on behalf of education, housing, youth, employment, and other community issues. In 1996, he received the Charles L. Whistler Award and in 1995, the Distinguished Alumni Award from the National Association for Equal Opportunities and Higher Education. He also has been awarded honorary doctorates of public service, law, and humane letters from local colleges and universities, as well as leadership awards from the Boy Scout Council of Central Indiana.

Jones has reached out to everyone in the community through volunteer service, philanthropy, public testimony, a weekly Urban League radio program, and frequent television appearances. His optimism, empathy, and ability to create alliances and achieve shared goals are an inspiration to all who come in contact with him. "He has lived a life of unselfish service, leadership, and commitment to others," says Indiana University Trustee Cora Smith Breckenridge.