Grady College is proud to have four alumni recognized as 2020 40 under 40 honorees, presented by the University of Georgia Alumni Association.
The 40 under 40 distinction recognizes the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of UGA graduates under the age of 40.
This interview with Eric Jones (ABJ ’12), entertainment booker and producer for ABC’s Good Morning America, is one of a series of conversations with Grady’s honorees this year. Other honorees are:
Ashley McMaster (ABJ ’12)
Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03)
Mikaya Thurmond (ABJ ’12)
Grady College: What experience during your time in college had the biggest influence on where you are today?
Jones: “I would without a doubt have to say my experience as a White House Intern in Spring 2011 for the Office of the First Lady Michelle Obama forever changed my life and helped mold me into the man I am today. As a young Black man literally going from Vidalia, Georgia to the White House…it is something I sometimes have to stop and let sink in sometimes. These were the best six months of my life. Managing volunteers and retired dedicated citizens as we helped support one of the most influential First Ladies of our time, flagging incoming correspondence to Mrs. Obama for her speechwriting team, and staffing East Wing and Social Office events — were all hallmarks of my time there. Not only did I do incredible work, I learned so much about myself, meeting people and showing them my true authentic self without fear or shame. Although it took me off of campus and out of Athens for a semester, what I gained and made up for in terms of career advancement and life experiences was immeasurable.”
Grady College: What advice do you have for current students?
Jones: “I would tell current students to not be afraid of putting in the work. Nothing great or worthwhile comes without trials or tribulations. It’s very easy to fall into complacency with where you’ve gotten or what you’ve accomplished thus far, but keep going and continue setting an authentic and realistic yet quality standard for yourself that is parallel to no one else. There’s only one YOU!”
Grady College: What motivates you?
Jones: “It may be an unexpected answer, but honestly…pressure. My favorite quote is ‘Pressure is a Privilege,’ a line from tennis legend Billie Jean King. And although that quote was meant to characterize those intense moments on the court facing off against a formidable opponent, I take those words and apply it to the situations that happen in my life, at work, etc. The opportunity to perform, thrive and succeed under pressure is a privilege. And it is an honor to be in that position and to have that level of responsibility and expectation to pull through and overcome. It’s a guiding principle for me that continually drives and motivates me.”
Grady College: What was your vision for your career? Have you followed this path?
Jones: “Believe it or not, my original career vision was not to be on the red carpets and traveling the world with the most famous stars like Will Smith, The Rock and Helen Mirren. I actually thought I wanted to be a pharmacist! I volunteered at my local hospital pharmacy in Vidalia, Georgia, worked at a local pharmacy and also served as a member of a Medical Staff Youth Advisory Board. Obviously, I did not follow that path in the end. I’m beyond thankful that I listened to myself and made the decision to follow my heart and my passion in entertainment and television. As a young kid, I was always the one watching E!, shouting out and identifying every celebrity on carpets and award shows. It was second nature to me! I remember at UGA freshman orientation coming to that realization that I have always enjoyed connecting with people and was always enamored with TV and entertainment. And here I am today.”
Grady College: What do you envision for your professional journey moving forward?
Jones: “I envision more ownership and visibility in what I do. Personal and professional branding have become increasingly vital to my success as an entertainment producer. As much as the two are married, I look forward to reaching new and expected heights while setting the bar higher and higher for myself.”
Grady College: What did you love most about your time at UGA?
Jones: “I loved the people. I valued my friends who then became my family and continue to be to this day. Life-changing faculty, professors and advisors helped influence the young professional I am right now. I am forever indebted to every life that touched mine in a positive way over the course of my four years at UGA.”