Emily Jones

A Pioneer Risk Taker’s Journey: From a Small Town to the National Stage of LGBTQ+ Rights

Emily Jones was born in Canton, New York, a small town of 20,000 in the 1940’s.  She came to Rochester in 1975 after accepting a position with Eastman Kodak Company as a nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopist in the Analytical Technology Laboratory. Even though Stonewall had happened, Emily did not know anything about Stonewall when she came to Rochester.  In 1988, Emily was the only woman leader in her division, first woman Assistant to the Director, divorced, and a single mom.  By now “ PIONEER, RISK TAKER” were in her blood.  Her first lesbian relationship was long-distance, taking her to Kodak LogoBoston regularly. As she volunteered in response to the AIDS crisis, Emily witnessed the impact of discrimination on the rights of gay and lesbian communities. In 1990, as a member of the World Chorus at the Gay Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, she met a fellow Kodak employee, Chuck Collins.  As a result of this new friendship, and with the help of a senior HR Kodak executive, two Kodak employee groups that wanted to form a gay and lesbian employee resource group were united.  In 1992, David Kozel, Gary Gray, Dan Sapper, Kathryn Rivers, Chuck Collins, and Emily successfully launched The Lambda Network at Kodak a Kodak Employee Resource Group. The Lambda Network would educate leadership on the unique work needs of their LGBT employees.  In 1995, along with Kathryn Rivers, Emily co-chaired the First Educational Event for Senior Management on LGBT Issues at Kodak. This event marked the first of its kind for a Fortune 500 company. As a result of this work, she was invited to help write the curriculum and attend First Business Executive Program for LGBT leaders at UCLA.  In 1998, Emily received the Vicki Cup, in honor of Vicki Russo, an employee of Arnie Pegish at the Bachelor Forum.  The Vicki Cup is presented to a woman who has given outstanding service, whether paid or volunteer, to the general community including the gay and lesbian community.Out Alliance Logo

Emily was named Co-Director of New Imaging Materials Research in 1999. She was responsible for leading long-term research for coatable media and materials. Building on the core competencies in chemistry, polymer chemistry, coating technology and small particle technology coupled with deposition of electronic materials she lead research programs that would secure Eastman Kodak as a significant leader in the area of flexible display technology until she retired in January of 2006.

Out&EqualAfter completing 29 years of service in the R&D community in 2005, Emily continued her “Pioneer Risk Taking” modus operandi.  Emily was a President and Co-President of the Board of the Out Alliance (formerly the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley of Rochester, NY). Emily was a board member of the Rochester Chapter of GLSEN, a co-chair in 2008 and 2009 of the Empire State Pride Agenda Spring Dinner Committees, first chair of the Finger Lakes Out & Equal chapter board, co-chair of the national Out & Equal Regional Affiliates, and co-chair of the 2011 North East Regional Out and Equal Summit. Emily HRC Corporate Equality Indexpresented at the national Out&Equal Conferences on how to effect change in public policy through changes in corporate policy and on the business benefits of marketing to the LGBT Community. In 2006, she received the Outie Trailblazer Award at the Out and Equal Conference in Chicago.  Her proudest legacy continues to be creating workplace equality for all workers across the Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. At the National Level she served for 10 years on the Business Council of the Human Rights Campaign, HRC, where as Co-Chair with Wes Combs she initiated and championed the most respected measure of LGBT diversity in the workplace, the Corporate Equality Index.  Co-writing the first HRC guide for individuals transitioning in the workplace remains one of her proudest accomplishments.

In 2011, she was one of the speakers for the Empire State Pride Agenda’s Business Supports Marriage Equality group in New York, working with Ross Levi, ESPA President, representatives from Xerox and Kodak and the Mayor of Rochester to gain business support for the passage of Marriage Equality in NYS.  Emily worked to engage business support for ENDA, the Tax Equity Act, the Pension Act and Marriage Equality. She served on the ESPA Board as Vice-Chair until its dissolution in 2016. Emily continues to be a community advocate and friend of Trillium Health and Chair of the HCR Cares Board, the philanthropic Board of HCR HOME Care. Working with long-time LGBTQ education partner, Kathryn Rivers, they educated both the medical and mental health communities on the unique needs of the LGBTQ patient through a series of “Can We Talk” workshops.

The adoring grandmother of Maya and Logan, Emily enjoys watching her grandchildren grow and mature. Five years ago her son and grandson were diagnosed with an incurable rare disease, Myotonic Dystrophy. Once again, needing to know more and help physicians understand the needs of this unknown and misunderstood disease formed the Finger Lakes Myotonic Dystrophy Support Group.  Along with her son, they have met with key congressional leaders on Capitol Hill to gain support for research on this disease in the Department of Defense budget.  She and her partner Deborah Hughes, President and CEO of the Susan B. Anthony Museum & House whom she married in June 2012, enjoy spending time with family and each other celebrating holidays, birthdays and anniversaries and sailing on their boat, Tradewinds.

Emily Jones at the Susan B. Anthony MuseumIn recent years Emily began another chapter in her “Pioneer Risk Taking” journey.  Emily admits, “I’m really involved with the Susan B. Anthony Museum, not only because of the history of women’s suffrage, but because it has taken on rejuvenating a city neighborhood. They have an after school program for the young girls in the neighborhood. A young gay man from the neighborhood, whom they have “adopted”, is now going to college. With the help of the docents and staff, he has created a new life with a purpose and a hope. They also work with women in transition. That’s why the House appeals to me. It has everything to do with re-shaping a community and a neighborhood to create purpose and hope.”

In 2020 Emily’s journey continues with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, Susan B. Anthony’s 200th birthday and the Anthony Museum’s 75th Anniversary as she organizes the Suffrage City Parade celebrating the Hope, Courage and Change women have made and will make in the years to come. It is only right, that in 2020 The Year of The LGBTQ Woman, Shoulders to Stand On recognizes Emily Jones, a woman who has carried the legacy of Susan B. into the present.  I personally have known Emily for 20+ years.  She is a woman of integrity, a woman committed to fighting for equality and justice for all, a woman who is wise who shares her spirit of hope.  I value her friendship, listening ear and mentoring.  Emily’s has re-shaped her own life many times, and has helped organizations and individuals to do the same including me.

Emily JonesEmily was a member of the Shoulders To stand On Committee for 10 years, and she and Bruce Gorman planned the premier screening of the documentary on Rochester’s LGBTQ history at the Dryden in September 2013.  In the video tape interview that Kevin Indovino did with Emily, he asked, “ Years from now, many, many years, how do you want history to reflect on this and the commitments that you have made for whatever gay cause you addressed over the years?”

This tribute ends with Emily’s response, “It’s pretty simple.  I followed my heart and I followed my passion.  And I allowed change to happen where needed.  And just appreciate that you have to live into your risk. Know you’re going to face rejection.  But in all cases, try to be resilient.”

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