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Carolyn E. Jones

Photo of Carolyn E. Jones
Categories: 2012 Alumnae, Human Rights, Humanitarian, Rotary Leadership


Carolyn Jones is recognized for her distinguished 25-year leadership role in Rotary International, from president of her Anchorage club to the first woman in the world to be appointed as a trustee to the prestigious worldwide “The Rotary Foundation.” She has been recognized for her lasting humanitarian contribution as a Rotary volunteer with children in eastern Russian orphanages by both the Alaska State Legislature and the Tomsk Russian Duma. Jones’ career as an attorney in Alaska litigating laws to make more opportunities for all Americans, has been recognized for by the State of Alaska Commission for Human Rights. Jones continues to serve humanitarian needs in several capacities through Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation.

Jones was raised in a small town on the Hudson River in New York. Her mother was a domestic, cleaning houses. “Growing up, no one we knew had gone to college,” she says. “I didn’t know any attorneys. I knew about them from watching Perry Mason!” How did she change her life? “I just had so many good things happen to me.” From the start, Jones did well in school. “My third-grade teacher took me aside one day and told me people would tell me that I could not succeed because of my skin color and because we were poor. She told me not to believe it.” Jones graduated from Stanford, with distinction, on full scholarship (l963), was the first woman president of the Yale Law School Student Association and graduated from Yale Law School on full scholarship (1966).

Jones’ legal career in Alaska began in l975 when she was an attorney for the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights. For her work there and with other agencies, she received the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service (1984) and the Alaska Bar Association Distinguished Service Award (1990). She was an assistant attorney general for the State of Alaska for 23 years and a supervising attorney in the office during the last seven years before her retirement in 1998.
In l987 Jones, actively involved in Anchorage community volunteer work, was invited to join Rotary, the first year women were allowed as members. She declined because, “I didn’t want to be where I wasn’t wanted.” She was persuaded by the argument that Rotary had the resources for the kinds of humanitarian activism so important to her. It was the start of her “second life.” She joined the Rotary Club of Anchorage East and in a five-year period advanced from member, to board member to president (l992-93). By l997 she was governor of Rotary District 5010, which included all of Alaska, the Yukon Territory and eastern Russia – the largest Rotary District in the world.

Jones served five terms as a Rotary volunteer in Russia, three times working as a pre-school teacher to developmentally delayed children in Russian orphanages and twice as a visiting university professor. She received the Rotary International Service Above Self Award (2001) and The Rotary Foundation Distinguished Service Award (2009). She was also awarded the Alaska Bar Association’s “Distinguished Service Award.” In honor of her work with children, she was named “Volunteer of the Year” by the Russian Children’s Foundation, a non-profit group based in Moscow (2002). The Alaska State Legislature recognized her achievements and the Tomsk Russian Duma gave her the “Mercy & Charity” award (2006). Her story of her experience as a Rotary volunteer in Russia was included in the 2002 edition of “Chicken Soup for the Volunteer Soul.”

In 2005 Jones became the first woman in the world to be appointed as trustee to “The Rotary Foundation” (2005 -2009). In that position she worked with and spoke to Rotary clubs around the world. She also has served as president’s representative to districts in Italy, Canada and the U.S., and is currently vice chairperson of the Rotary Foundation Peace Centers Committee. This foundation gives master’s level scholarships for peace and conflict resolution centers in universities around the world and chairperson of the Rotary International Constitution and Bylaws Committee. Jones has served as an international training leader (2000 and 2005), regional foundation coordinator (2003-2005), chairperson, Zone 22 Rotary International Institute (2004) and on other worldwide committees.

“I joined Rotary because I thought I was going to give back to the community,” she said. “One way I changed was in seeing that we are truly all one world community.”

Jones has two daughters: Nina Simpson-Jones and Carrie Graham.

Induction ceremony acceptance speech