Mautra
Staley Jones

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Photo courtesy Mautra Staley Jone

Mautra Staley Jones, M.B.A., Ed.D., is a lifelong educator and devoted academic diplomat, serving as Vice President of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs at Langston University, as well as the executive director of the Langston University Foundation. Additionally, Jones speaks on a variety of topics around Oklahoma and serves in leadership positions for numerous businesses and committees, including as a director of the BancFirst Corporation and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She has also received public recognition and awards for her business acumen and community involvement. We caught up with her and got her thoughts on … 

…her passion for
making a difference.

God blessed me with an incredible amount of energy, enthusiasm and optimism. I suppose I needed those attributes to overcome all the obstacles I’ve faced in life. I strongly believe that my very humble beginnings shaped my life’s work and mission. My grandmother, who raised me as a proud daughter of Ardmore, instilled in me the value of faith, family, fortitude and freedom. I watched her serve as a remarkable example to me and my siblings as the matriarch of our family, and I have always been inspired by her strength, tenacity, dignity and wisdom. I now get to share that same love with my amazing husband and children, who inspire me every single day to be the best version of myself and continue to pursue excellence. We all have a duty to leave this world better than we found it, and that is a notion that has driven my service to our great state.  

… what she’s
looking forward to. 

I have spent the past twenty years transforming lives by ensuring youth from underserved communities have resources and opportunities to pursue their goals and dreams. In this regard, I look forward to continuing to strengthen my leadership. 

I also look forward to serving our state, region and country in a much greater capacity. Given that I have witnessed youth, teens and young adults experience hopelessness and despair due to circumstances they did not create, my heart’s desire is that those same people have the necessary tools and assistance that sets them up for success. I hope to continue inspiring people. The sky is the limit, and I believe it is up to each of us to bless others when we have the time, talent and treasure to effectively do so.  

… her favorite
public speaking topics. 

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As a mother of faith, I am most proud when I get to share about my motherhood journey and my children with audiences. Education is also a real passion of mine, because I have witnessed its transformative power not only in my life, but in those I’ve been blessed to serve. I recently had a chance to provide the keynote address at The Journal Record’s 2021 Woman of the Year event, wherein my message centered around “Am I the victim or the victor: Does the life I choose to lead reflect this chosen path and state of mind?” Sharing about my life is meaningful as it allows me to instill hope, courage and light into others by providing a testimony about my own trials, tribulations and triumphs. 

… lessons she’s learned.

1. Ensure the company’s culture aligns with your values, goals and beliefs. When those things are in alignment, you will more likely than not thrive in that type of environment. 2. Ensure the organization honors and respects your contributions, encourages your growth as a professional and invests in your leadership development. 3. You must be set up for success in order to achieve. 4. The resource allocation reconciles with the expectations and goals. 5. Be fearless in your pursuit of excellence. 6. Do what makes your soul happy. 7. Stay focused on the mission and you can’t go wrong. 8. Know when it is time to transition to greater. 9. Always leave an organization better than you found it. 10. If you want to be the victor, give time in your life only to those that seek your victory.

… the ‘secret’ to balancing
her many commitments.

There is no secret. I’ve learned the key to achieving success is any endeavor is prioritization. My life is far from stress free, but ultimately, I decide where I focus my energy. I’ve learned through the years to avoid negativity at all costs and to strictly focus on the positive.  

… Langton University.

My work at Langston University is always inspiring. I love working with our students, alumni, donors and university community. We operate as a team and family that ensures the mission is advanced in every capacity. No two days look alike. Whether its meeting with donors, leading various initiatives, planning events, preparing reports, visiting with students or strategic planning, my work is very diverse in nature depending on the season. 

… her public recognitions. 

Although the honors I have received from various entities were pleasant surprises, each one is unique and holds a special place in my heart. Being recognized for engaging in work you love to do is simply amazing! When you are passionate about your work, you view work as a labor of love. I have a sense of fulfillment because I know I am walking in my destiny. I hope that each recognition serves as an example to others that anything is possible when you operate with a spirit of sincerity, genuineness and love.  

… proudest accomplishments.

I am certainly proud of the fact that we have created something with our Oklahoma River that is truly differentiating for OKC and, I believe, has helped spark a contagious sense of pride throughout our community and a growing culture surrounding the outdoors and water sports.  Many people who are enjoying the Oklahoma River of today may not realize that less than 20 years ago the dream for a vibrant riverfront began with a shipping container boathouse on a dirt lot near the site of the Chesapeake Boathouse and adjacent to a blighted neighborhood with several abandoned lots.  Today this entire area has been transformed into the 120 acre Boathouse District through a unique public/private effort that I am fortunate to have helped lead. It was incredibly affirming when our programming has resulted in over 13 million in college scholarships to Oklahoma kids. It was also especially exciting we were able to secure the designation of the Oklahoma River as a US Olympic and Paralympic Training Site – the only river in the United States with such a designation.

Equally affirming is earning the attention of the outdoor industry as OKC was selected via RIVERSPORT as one of only four communities in the nation to receive the 3 year Thrive Outside grant designed to help infuse outdoor culture throughout the community. 

Personally, it is very special for Tempe and I to have watch the impact of the riverfront developments upon our own children. From sitting in the coaching boats as toddlers to now competing for the RIVERSPORT junior team at a national level with college opportunities, my kids are certainly a source of pride for us and it is very fulfilling to see how all the blood, sweat and tears that created this venue as they grew up is truly positively impacting their lives. It is also fun to see the entrepreneurial spirit pass to Keaton, my oldest son, who, with his best friend Owen, helped us develop the Basecamp Nature Center which has become a popular attraction at RIVERSPORT.

… his love of Oklahoma.

I have always said the people are the “x factor” that differentiates Oklahoma from everywhere else. While we certainly have a world class and urban venue unlike any other in the world, it is the way that we naturally treat our guests that was, I believe, a critical factor to our important formative years of putting the Oklahoma River on the map. The people are also the reason why a young guy like me (when I started this), with no real roots or connections in the community, was accepted for my big ideas and embraced. I don’t believe this would be the case in many other places! 

… OKC in 10 to 20 years. 

While so much has happened over the past 20 years, in many ways I feel we are just getting started. We have built important relationships that are leading to major opportunities, such as the ICF Super Cup occurring in August, which will bring the world’s top paddlers to OKC for our first-ever internationally televised event, and the first ever official event of its kind under the lights. The global exposure that will come from events like this will lead to exciting new opportunities in the future that will truly allow us to realize the vision of being one of the world’s premier urban aquatic venues.

Aubrey McClendon taught me to always look forward and ask yourself “What’s next?” I will continue to strive to advance the venue and our programming in new and exciting ways, and we are also excited to welcome our first commercial development to the Boathouse District with Bar K.  This will open up a wide array of new opportunities and momentum.  Most of all, I am excited to see how we can influence and ongoing generational change in our outdoor culture – and become a place that kids don’t want to leave (unlike mu high school friends in the early 90s) and people strive to get to.

… what he’s looking forward to.

I am really looking forward to seeing the different cultures mix and take hold in the Boathouse District – from our Olympic rowers and paddlers, to the cyclists and skaters who use our bike park, to the Oklahomans who have now come surfers with Surf OKC, and the skiers and snowboarders who now have a place to pursue their lifestyles with Ski OKC.

I believe all of this will make a long term impact upon our community and will help develop and exciting new set of leaders who will continue the natural passion and authenticity that made this project unique to OKC.  Of course – I am really excited to see how the experience of growing up around this amazing and crazy influences my kids as they pursue their individual interests and passions. 

… a big thank you. 

None of this would be possible without the steadfast commitment and support of my wife, Tempe, who is equally responsible for putting these unique opportunities for OKC in motion and supporting me through all the ups and downs along the way! Of course, I have also been very fortunate to surround myself with incredibly passionate and talented staff and amazing supporters through the years who have really made this dream come to life.

For more, visit okmag.com/knopp.