From Mentor to Motivator
Alum Enlightens Prospective Students
With so many worthwhile organizations out there, you may wonder which one would benefit most from a bequest in your will or trust. For Indianapolis resident James Barnes, '79, several life experiences led him to an easy decision.
"What better place than Ball State?" says Barnes, whose college experience helped shape his future and inspired him to include Ball State as part of his legacy.
Barnes transferred to Ball State at the start of his junior year and graduated with a degree in industrial arts education from Teachers College. He taught industrial arts for two years at Merle Sidener Gifted Academy in Indianapolis before moving to manufacturing, where he worked with AES Interconnects. In 1995, he founded Jim Barnes Inc. (JBI) as a manufacturers' representative. He also found time to become a mentor.
All of these experiences led Barnes to support Ball State, where he found a way to include his various areas of interest to create scholarships in both the Department of Technology and the College of Architecture and Planning.
Philanthropy Forged Through Strong Relationships
Barnes has remained close to a few of his professors and is particularly grateful for the support of Olon Dotson, associate professor of architecture. "Professor Dotson has been supportive of my interest in mentoring students, always making time to help me out when I bring potential students to campus for tours," he says. "Together, we show these students an inside perspective of Ball State."
Barnes also contributed to the Dr. William H. Middleton Scholarship, which resulted in a friendship with the Middleton family and sparked his own interest in giving back. "I saw what a positive effect this gift had on continuing 'Doc' Middleton's legacy at Ball State," he says. "I was inspired."
Motivating Young Minds
It's clear that Barnes' background as an educator helped shape his service accomplishments and, in turn, his philanthropic direction. About 20 years ago, he joined Big Brothers Big Sisters as a mentor. He worked with many children but ultimately wanted to extend his outreach to college-bound students.
"I really wanted to work with youth who had a good possibility of going to college," he says. "I thought with my background and training, and my connections in the field of manufacturing, I could help expose students to diverse opportunities."
The result was his partnership with the Starfish Initiative, a college readiness mentorship program for academically promising, economically disadvantaged high school students in Marion County, Indiana.
Barnes has used his work with Starfish to introduce his mentees to different jobs and careers, letting them explore their interests in preparation for their post-high school years. In addition to visits to Ball State, he takes them to local manufacturers and design firms.
He also shares his love of sculpting and working with his hands. When Barnes and his mentees aren't seeing plays or visiting art galleries, they work together on art projects. He's presently working on a metal sculpture for Starfish with his current mentee, who will attend Ball State this fall.
But funding scholarships to help students and mentoring wasn't enough. Barnes' endowments focus on the need for increased diversity in technical fields.
"I wanted to focus on minorities interested in technology and architecture, especially young women, because there's just not that many females who apply in these areas," he says. "I was hoping that scholarships earmarked for women would influence more of them to pursue these fields and contribute professionally."
Thanks to his love of Ball State, Barnes has been able to make that gift a reality. Although his scholarships won't be funded until after his lifetime, he will continue to make additional gifts in the meantime.
—Shelia-Marie Stacy, Communications Graduate Assistant
Make a Greater Impact
Follow your passion with a gift to the Ball State University Foundation. Contact D. Mark Helmus at 765-285-8312 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details.