Lunch Keynote

Jo Bonner


12:15 - 1:00 p.m.
Keynote Speaker
Jo Bonner, Vice Chancellor for Government Relations and Economic Development
The University of Alabama System

Josiah (Jo) Robins Bonner, Jr. was named Vice Chancellor for Government Relations and Economic Development for The University of Alabama System in August of 2013.  As Vice Chancellor, Bonner works with state, local and national leaders – in government, business and higher education – to advance The System’s strategic mission, building on existing relationships and developing new ones, that will enhance the mission of the state’s largest higher education enterprise university system and help grow Alabama’s economy. 

The University of Alabama System is comprised of three doctoral research universities:  The University of Alabama, The University of Alabama at Birmingham and The University of Alabama in Huntsville as well as the UAB Health System.  This fall total enrollment will exceed 60,000 for the first time and the System’s economic impact exceeds $8 billion annually. 

For more than a decade, Bonner represented Alabama’s First District in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He was first elected to 108th Congress in November 2002, and was successfully reelected to five additional terms.  As a student at The University of Alabama, Bonner worked on Capitol Hill as an intern for Congressman Jack Edwards.  After graduation, he returned to Washington as chief of staff and press secretary to Congressman Sonny Callahan.  He parlayed his almost 18-years-experience as a staffer into a convincing win in a crowded Republican primary in 2002.  Bonner never lost an election and ran unopposed in the November 2012 general election. 

In Congress, Bonner earned a reputation as a respected and influential voice of reason in both Alabama and Washington.   In addition to his service on the House Appropriations Committee, he was a member of three key subcommittees: Defense; Commerce, Justice & Science; and Financial Services.  Widely respected on both sides of the aisle, Bonner was selected by House Speaker John Boehner for a six-year stint on the House Ethics Committee where he served as chairman during the 112th Congress. 

While Bonner and his staff were well-known for having the state’s best constituent services, he devoted a significant amount of time to help turn around the sluggish economy of South Alabama.  In 2012, the Mobile Press-Register called Bonner “a champion for South Alabama” and he is credited with playing a major role in helping land several significant economic development projects including the $5 billion ThyssenKrupp project in 2007, as well as helping secure $5 billion in contracts in 2010 for Austal to build 20 new ships for the U.S. Navy.

His crowning Congressional accomplishment came in 2012 when Airbus announced plans to build their first U.S. Final Assembly Line in Mobile.  Over the years, Congressman Bonner developed a close personal friendship – and strategic partnership – with the leadership at Airbus, one of the world’s largest aerospace and defense companies.  The Airbus project is valued at more than $600 million and is expected to bring at least 1,000 new jobs to Mobile.

Jo Bonner has received numerous awards including the Distinguished Public Service Award in 2013, which is the highest honor the U.S. Navy bestows on a civilian.  He also received the 2012 “Governor Bob Riley Building a Better Alabama Award” from the Business Council of Alabama.  He was awarded an honorary doctorate from The University of South Alabama in 2012.

Bonner earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from The University of Alabama in 1982.  He is married to the former Janée Lambert, of Mobile, and they are the parents of a daughter, Lee, age 18, and a son, Robins, age 15. 

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