The Ohio State University Alumni Association

Leading the way

Jim Roberts’ community reaps the rewards of his service

Jim Roberts

Ohio State alumnus Jim Roberts is known as a leader in Heath, Ohio, where his volunteer efforts have paid off in a new high school and church. He is a recipient of The Ohio State University Alumni Association’s 2017 Robert M. Duncan Alumni Citizenship Award. (Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons)

When perusing the community service resume of Jim Roberts ’84, a nearly lifelong resident of Heath, Ohio, the words “president,” “chairman” and “board member” jump out.

President of the local school board, the zoning board, the building standards board, the heart association. Chairman of his church’s elders group. Board member for the chamber of commerce.

It’s one thing to volunteer. But around Heath and nearby Newark, Roberts is known as a leader. Among the impactful efforts he’s led: construction of a high school in Heath and a new home for the Heath Church of Christ.

“If I get involved in something, I become fully immersed in it. I don't like to do things halfway,” says Roberts, who earned a degree in civil engineering from Ohio State in 1984. “So, if you get engaged at that level, and you stay involved long enough, you tend to end up in a leadership-type role. And I’m comfortable in those roles, so it works out that way typically.”

Roberts had some great examples to follow very early in life. Both of his parents were school principals, and Dave Klontz, an influential high school coach, was active in Roberts’ church.

“They were able to influence me in such a positive way that I wanted to be able to influence other people that way,” he says. “I respected their leadership and wanted to emulate that.”

In high school, Roberts was president of his class all four years and president of the student council his senior year. And his penchant for service continued to grow as he got involved in more activities as an adult.

“That sense of accomplishment sort of builds on itself and makes you want to do that more and more, and maybe at a little bit of a higher level,” he says.

Kelly Tuttle attributes her father’s success as a community leader to caring about others as people. “He recognized the impact that each project would have on individual lives and that motivated him to never give up,” she says.

“I think the time, effort and sheer determination he put into completing projects, no matter how long it took or how many setbacks there were, shows his commitment to service.”

The accomplishments Roberts takes the most pride are prominent places within his community. Starting in 1997, when he was president of the school board, he led the effort to pass a $20 million bond issue that paid for a new high school and upgrades to other school district facilities. The new high school opened in 2002.

“We had no money coming from the state or any outside group,” he says, “but we had the idea that we could do better for our kids. I take joy every time I walk into one of those facilities and remember the effort so many of us made to make that project happen.”

Roberts’ vision “created what is now known as one of the most comprehensive middle school/high school facilities in our area,” says Trevor Thomas, superintendent of Heath City Schools. “Jim joined the board at a time when Heath was an excellent school district that the community was happy with. Yet Jim had the foresight to ask the question, ‘Can we be better?’”

The same year the school levy drive began, Roberts joined the building committee at Heath Church of Christ and helped spearhead planning that led to a new church building in 2004.

“I am comfortable talking in front of people and in front of crowds. I tend to be a bit of a big-picture type of person, and I guess leadership positions require that type of ability. So, it fits my style.”

Roberts was able to manage his volunteer pursuits even while attending nearly every sporting event in which his children competed. Now that the kids are grown, bicycling is a regular diversion. He’s also president of Jobes Henderson & Associates, a subsidiary of Hull & Associates, a civil engineering, land surveying and environmental consulting firm in Newark.

And there is still a lot of giving.

“I do seem to be on the clock around the clock,” he says. “It’s a lot of hours, but it’s rewarding, and it’s just kind of the way I’m wired.”