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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Off the Clock

Bob Jones relinquished the helm of Old National Bank five years ago but keeps busy with philanthropic and community work.

Former Old National Bank Chair and CEO Bob Jones spends a small portion of his retired days sipping coffee in the Donut Bank at U.S. 41 and Lincoln Avenue and Honey Moon Coffee Co. on Burkhardt Road. It’s a good place for community members to say hello and engage in conversation, and he is more than obliging.

The same goes for taking a phone call.

Jones’ involvement in local philanthropy and his seat on multiple boards continue to have an impact beyond his banking career. While at ONB, he encouraged civic engagement among employees and led by example. These days, with ONB in his rearview mirror, he focuses on giving back. When asked about anything related to ONB, he says those are matters for current CEO Jim Ryan to address.

“I’m gone. I’m a small blip in the long history of that institution,” Jones says.

In the broader community, he played a pivotal role in the development of the East Side’s Lampion Center for counseling therapy and Ascension St. Vincent YMCA, Stone Family Center for Health Sciences, and the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, all in Downtown Evansville. You’ll notice the latter two are positioned on a stretch of Walnut Street renamed in 2019 “Bob Jones Way” in honor of his contributions.

Today, Jones is retired in name only. Between philanthropic and community-driven endeavors, he spends time with his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Carolyn. He could have retired anywhere, but what has kept the 66-year-old Cleveland, Ohio, native in Evansville, he says, are the people.

“You want to leave the world in a better place. Nothing is about you or me, it is about the community,” Jones says.

Evansville Business: What was your motivation to retire? Is there anything you miss about ONB?
Bob Jones: I knew the bank had people who could do a better job than I did. I’m proud of the folks running the bank. I have a funny theory that as a CEO you only rent the seat, you do not own it. And it was time for my lease to be up and Jim Ryan to take over the lease, and he has done an incredible job. The second part is to spend more time with my family, my wife who sacrificed 40-plus years of me being gone six days a week and working ridiculous hours.

(Leaving ONB) I feel like I got divorced and lost custody of the kids. Naturally, that is the way it has to be. I was with people at the bank more than I was with my own family. But I miss the people. They are just good people. I love Jim Ryan, and he’s doing a great job. When we hired Kathy Schoettlin from the Red Cross, I remember her saying, “I don’t know anything about banking.” I said, “That’s good.” You won’t find anybody with a bigger heart than Kathy.

Photo of Bob Jones, Lisa Jones, Rose Young, and Judge Rick Young at the Emily M. Young Assessment Center provided by Bob Jones

EB: Despite being retired, you still are involved in so much. Which organizations do you choose to share your time with?
Jones: You cannot go through going a hundred miles an hour to doing nothing. I was in charge of fundraising for the COVID-19 Relief Fund. I am the co-chair of the transition team for Mayor Stephanie Terry. I’m chair of the board at the University of Evansville. I’ve done that for now three years. I’m the chair of the Stone Center. I’m also on the board of Golf Gives Back. I’m the Riley Children’s Hospital Foundation finance chair and involved in the formation of CDFI Friendly Evansville Region. And I am on a national board, MissionSquare Retirement. I do some work out in Washington, D.C., and some other places. Everything has a different story, but they’re all connected to one, which is how do you make a difference?

EB: Why do you feel it is so important to stay involved?
Jones: This community has been so good to me and my family that I want to pay forward. If you can make a difference, then you have to just try and do it. I still have my time, but it’s just a chance to do something for people. So, if someone calls you and they say, “Hey, I need to get something done, who do I call?” you do what you can do. My wife has been a great catalyst for that as well.

EB: What was your goal in encouraging civic action among ONB employees while you were CEO?
Jones: Simple. A bank is only as strong as the communities they serve. If we cannot work hard to strengthen the communities, then we are not doing our job. At the end of the day, we’ve been at Evansville for almost 200 years. This is home and it is our job to make sure this community is as strong as we can be. That’s what a bank does. I think about “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That’s what the Bailey family did, right? That’s what all banks do. Some banks lost sight of that. They got so focused on profit and focused on compensation, that they forgot their job, which is “we’re here to serve communities.”

Photo of Zac Parsons and Bob Jones by Zach Straw

EB: Tell us your favorite thing about Evansville.
Jones: People. [Evansville] is such a wonderful community, but with the worst inferiority complex I have ever seen. They do not realize how good they have it. You know, if you come from the outside, you look [and] say, “Wow, this is a great place.” People who live here say “Eh, it’s OK.”

EB: How can Evansville improve on what we have?
Jones: Population growth is important. One of the challenges we have is, how do we retain the kids who graduate from UE, University of Southern Indiana, Ivy Tech Community College, and Oakland City University? How do we grow our population? How do we create an attraction where people want to move here and make a difference? I think that would go a long way to helping us as you continue to grow business.

I think the broader opportunity is, how do we (expand) the great things we have done Downtown to all of our communities? Every community, every neighborhood is a little bit different. Help the Fourth Ward and the areas that need some growth, need some opportunity, need some redevelopment, [and] take care of the whole community.

EB: What do you do in your leisure time?
Jones: My wife and I spend the summer in Michigan, [we] call that our happy place. We both love to golf. We like to cook. We like to travel. As much as I talk about paying it forward to the community, I need to pay back my wife. She sacrificed a lot for my career.

Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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