A Model Leader

Maida Jones’ (AS ’91) family told her when she was young to “always know who you are, and whose you are.” This was a reminder to stay true to herself, and her faith.

That message has guided her from her days as an undergrad at Nicholls State University to her role as vice president of philanthropy for Ochsner Health.

“They taught me to give back. That could be babysitting or helping an elderly person in the neighborhood with something around the house,” she says. “I’m blessed to end up in a job that matches how I grew up and matches my spirit. For me, this is more than a career or a job. This is personal.”

Jones, who joined Ochsner in 2011, and her team led fundraising initiatives for the entire system. That includes raising $25 million for the Benson Cancer Center expansion and funding for 3D printers that allow cardiologists to practice for surgery. But it also includes helping people on a personal level.

“One day, an employee saw a woman sleeping on a bench. We found out she had family in the emergency room and didn’t have money to check into the Brent House hotel. So, we put her up in a room and made sure she had something to eat,” Jones says. “This is a coordinated effort with the nurses, physicians and social workers. We are truly an Ochsner family and we strive for everyone to embrace the culture of philanthropy.”

She has undoubtedly found success as a fundraiser. But her biggest impact is as a leader and mentor. When Michelle Dodenhoff first met Jones in 2013, she says she was immediately impressed.

“Maida is a model leader. She is one of the most solid to the core people I have ever met or worked with,” the senior vice president and chief development officer says. “I am incredibly fortunate to have her here.”

Asked how Jones impacts the organization, Dodenhoff recalls how Jones cared for an Ochsner employee on the day of her surgery. Jones drove the young woman, who had no family in the state, to the hospital, stayed by her side and then brought her home.

Maida Jones

“To do this job, you need the right personality. This job is a lot of that homegrown BoothVille girl, that Nicholls State girl. And that comes with a bit of charm, and not taking yourself too seriously.”

“Maida has a true heart of gold,” Dodenhoff says.

Jones says her family instilled these values in her from a young age. And no matter what her job title is now, she has never outgrown her hometown of BoothVille-Venice. Given the chance, she might leave a meeting with a CEO and then go 4-wheeling in the mud or fishing in the bayou.

“To do this job, you need the right personality. This job is a lot of that homegrown BoothVille girl, that Nicholls State girl. And that comes with a bit of charm, and not taking yourself too seriously,” she says.

Going to Nicholls felt like home. It was small and, through her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, she continued to volunteer in the community. But, as one of the few Black students in the College of Business Administration, it was also her first real experience with diversity.

“I was often the only Black person in my group, so I really had to learn how to work with people who didn’t look like me,” she says. “Throughout my career, I have often reflected on what I learned at Nicholls.”

After the death of George Floyd, Jones shared information with her team about deconstructing racism. Then she led candid conversations about that subject. One of her employees emailed Dodenhoff about the experience, praising Jones’ ability as a leader.

“I’m always amazed at how she works through any issue by empathizing and communicating effectively,” the colleague wrote. “These last few months have been difficult for all of us, but it’s times like these when real leadership rises to the surface.”

“I know what it’s like to be the only Black person, to be the only woman in the room,” she says. “I try to invest in as many of our young ladies as I can.”

For Jones, it’s about giving back. It’s about remembering who you are, and whose you are. It’s family, and to her, you are family the second you walk through
her door. – Jacob Batte


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