KFOR recently asked for your nominations for Oklahoma’s most remarkable women, and the incredible stories came pouring in! It was a tough job, but our 2023 Remarkable Women committee whittled down the nominations to four finalists. After bringing you their stories, News Four is ready to announce the winner. A huge congratulations to all of our deserving finalists – including our winner, Dr. Mautra Staley Jones! You can read her story below, as well as the stories of all of our finalists.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – To see her now, Dr. Mautra Staley Jones is the picture of success. She made history last year as the first-ever female president of Oklahoma City Community College, as well as the first African American to hold the presidential position at a state college or university that is not historically Black.
“I don’t take anything for granted because I’ve been on the other side where the days were dark, and the days were tough,” Dr. Jones told KFOR.
She grew up in Ardmore, with an incredibly tumultuous childhood.
“My parents had a lot of challenges. Trauma, abuse, food insecurity, and the list goes on and on. And so, having to tell myself that ‘I am somebody and I matter, and that those things don’t define me,’ is something that I’ve really had to work hard on doing in my life.”
Her saving grace was her grandmother, Maulsie Caldwell, who raised Dr. Jones and instilled in her a vision, which she still clings to: “‘Dream big dreams, whatever you want in this life, you can have that. Don’t forget to honor God, you give Him the glory’ – and she says that to me on every single phone call!” Dr. Jones said of her grandma.
And that advice paid off! Dr. Jones’ list of accolades and awards is a mile long. From being named “Woman of the Year” by four different publications, to being inducted into the Oklahoma African American Educators’ Hall of Fame.
But her proudest achievement is her husband, United States District Judge Bernard Jones, and their three children, Brendan, Kennedy, and Bernard, Jr. – all of whom are just as proud of “Mom.”
“Because she cares about us, and she held me in her stomach and she treats me like a good kid,” said her son, Brendan, who is nearly 8-years-old.
Her daughter, Kennedy, age 9, boasted, “She helps us with our homework when we need it, and yeah, I love her.”
14-year-old Bernard, Jr. chimed in, “She takes me to soccer practice, because I practice five days a week. And she makes sure that the family has everything they need, and she makes sure that I’m fed.”
With her kids by her side, Dr. Jones was beaming as she told News Four, “Your attitude determines your altitude. Positivity is so important and it’s something we hold fast to in our household. Also our faith, our faith guides us. And being a person of faith, I believe that we are called to serve. So, being able to walk in my purpose, is – I don’t have the words to adequately explain how incredible that feels.”
Her life has come full circle, as Dr. Jones is the one who, like Grandma Maulsie taught her, now teaches 17,000 OCCC students, along with her own children, to “dream big dreams.”
And Brendan is living proof that his mom does just that. “I want to be a ‘therapy’ because I want to make kids be good and healthy,” he said. Mom replied, “A therapist?” Brendan said, “Yeah, a therapist. Oh, and a scientist, and police officer.”
As the winner of KFOR’s Remarkable Women of Oklahoma campaign, Dr. Jones will receive a $1,000 donation to the 501(c)(3) charity of her choice. She has chosen that donation to go to The Foundation for Oklahoma City Community College, which helps students in financial need with everything from scholarships to a food pantry. KFOR will fly Dr. Jones to Los Angeles, California, where she will soon compete in the National Remarkable Women competition.
Another big congratulations goes out to all of our nominees! You can read their stories here.