Wilson-Barton Partnership to honor Ken Jones with award

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Ken Jones, Wilson business leader and retired plant manager of Merck & Co. in Wilson, will be honored at the 14th annual Wilson-Barton Partnership Leadership Award Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 20. The event, to be held on center campus at Barton College, will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The Wilson-Barton Partnership, 14 years strong, began out of Barton’s desire to further strengthen its relationship with its hometown community of Wilson. In 2004, the Wilson-Barton Partnership Steering Committee was born, and in 2005, the committee proposed an annual business leadership award to demonstrate the partnership that exists between the college and the business community.

Honorees are those who have made significant contributions to business and/or industry, demonstrate strong leadership qualities, show innovative and/or entrepreneurial qualities and are community-oriented. A portion of the funds raised will be used to fund annual scholarships for current Barton students.

The first Wilson-Barton Partnership Leadership Award was given to Thomas A. Hackney Jr., former Barton College board chairman, trustee emeritus and a widely respected business leader in Wilson for decades. The most recent distinguished awardees include Diane and Jerome Vick in 2014, Dr. Frank Batten in 2015, Lee Gliarmis in 2016 and Christy Proctor in 2017.

Tickets for the upcoming event are available at $75 per person and can be reserved by calling Summer Brock, director of donor relations and special events, at 252-399-6383. Sponsorship opportunities are available and begin at $750 for a table of eight. Advance reservations are required. The deadline for reserving seats is 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10.


Jones was born on a small farm in the mountains of Virginia. The third-oldest of 11 children, Jones spent his childhood helping on the farm.

Jones graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Science degree in operation management and Master of Business Administration in finance and marketing.

After graduation in 1975, Jones and his wife, Wanda, moved to Evansville, Indiana, where Jones began employment with Bristol Myers Squibb. They had three children, Kendra, Brandon and Langston.

While in Evansville, Jones held a variety of manufacturing operation roles, increasing in responsibility with each promotion. Eventually, Jones led the operation of the plant in Mount Vernon, Indiana. And, in 1995, he was offered the opportunity to move to the Bristol Myers Squibb headquarters in Princeton, New Jersey, to serve as the director of North American planning operations.

In 1996, after two decades with Bristol Myers Squibb, Jones made the decision to move to Merck & Co. in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, as the director of manufacturing services. After a year, Merck appointed him as senior director of pharmaceutical operations at its West Point, Pennsylvania, site. Ten years later in 2007, he was named Merck plant manager in Wilson. He retired in 2012.

Jones had dreamed of completing graduate studies and eventually running his own manufacturing company.

“While my dream didn’t turn out exactly as planned, the reward of working for both Bristol Myers Squibb and Merck have been a blessing and truly enjoyable experiences,” he said. “I have particularly enjoyed working with the employees at the Wilson plant and becoming so involved in this community. My experience in Wilson has brought my purpose in life full-circle — to help others, and to bring people together to create a stronger, more cohesive and sustainable community for all.

Jones’ leadership roles have included stints as chairman of the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, Wilson 20/20, Diversified Opportunities and the Wilson Community College Board of Trustees; director of Wilson Community College Foundation noard; co-chairman of Wilson Heart Walk and Committee to Support the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf; construction chairman for Wilson Habitat for Humanity; member of the Barton College Board of Trustees and member of the Barton College Board of Advisers; member of the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, O.N. Freeman Roundhouse Museum board, BB&T Advisory Board, Wilson Opportunities Industrialization Center board, Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park board, the Industrial Manufacturing Council, the Wilson Rotary Club; and secretary for the Preservation of Wilson.

He also has led the refocusing of the U.S. 301 Improvement Committee, served with Meals on Wheels delivery and supported Children’s Hunger Elimination of Wilson and assisted with its food delivery.