Speaker focuses on giving back: Bank executive earns award at annual meeting

A speaker at the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s annual meeting accepted the orchestra’s highest honor on behalf of his firm, a key sponsor of a significant Philharmonic fundraiser.

Outgoing Philharmonic President Peter King presented Bob Jones, chairman and CEO of Old National Bancorp, the orchestra’s Gold Baton Award, for the Evansville-based bank’s exemplary commitment to the musical arts.

The honor was given Monday for Old National’s support for the orchestra’s annual springtime outdoor Lobsterfest dinner and musical gathering downtown. The event, which sold out this year, helps fund the Philharmonic’s concert and music education programs that reach more than 13,000 adults and children each year.

It has raised nearly $50,000 or more each of the past several years, including a record $52,000 this year.

King praised Old National for its “army of volunteers” that help make the event a success.

Jones, who said Old National records about $185 million annually in earnings, mentioned that it’s normal to wonder why his company cares about an event such as Lobsterfest. Part of it revolves around basic logic, he said.

“Because the stronger this community is, the more opportunity there is for us (at Old National),” he said.

Jones’ presentation at the gathering, conducted at YES Cinema before about 150 people, focused on the importance of companies giving back to their communities.

In his remarks, Jones leaned on one of the city’s shining examples of corporate good citizenship: J. Irwin Miller and Cummins Engine Co., as the company was previously known.

“Irwin Miller is a legend not only in the U.S., but in the world, for what he’s done for corporate philanthropy,” Jones said.

Miller’s philanthropy also surfaced Saturday when his son, Will Miller, spoke at an Exhibit Columbus event at the Bartholomew County Public Library.

“There wasn’t, in his (J. Irwin Miller’s) mind, a trade-off between attention to the community’s social fabric and making money,” Will Miller said.

Jones mentioned that his business travels take him regularly through five states, ranging from towns of fewer than 500 people to metro areas.

“You all have something here that is extraordinarily special,” Jones said.

Having two-time Grammy winning singer Sylvia McNair, who performed two Great American Songbook numbers during the meeting, is part of what makes the Philharmonic special, Jones said. She has appeared at two of the past four annual meetings, plus the season-ending Salute! concert in May, and at a 2015 concert.

McNair, who has sung with most major orchestras nationwide, said Philharmonic Music Director David Bowden, a friend since college, ranks with some of the finest conductors with whom she has worked.

“I know you know what you have here,” she said of Bowden.

Bowden’s remarks at the event focused heavily on music education, calling the Philharmonic “a community service organization with an emphasis on the musical and performing arts.”

He praised the orchestra’s music education program that allows every area youngster the chance to play an instrument if he or she is interested. And he gushed, as he frequently has done, about the success of the Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir.

“The transformative effect that it has had on so many children’s lives is enormous,” Bowden said.

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.