For Linda Harris Barnes, giving back to Southern Arkansas University is not only the right thing to do, but a way to help future students in need.
Barnes, a 1972 sociology graduate, made the impactful decision to include SAU in her planned giving – a choice that came from her heart.
“My friends would say I am very analytical,” Barnes explained, “but I’ve never had a second thought about giving to SAU. I hope that, someday, my gift may be there to help a student.”
Barnes, a native of Nashville, Arkansas, who retired from Entergy Corporation, made her decision based on her memories of SAU as a compassionate institution, to which she feels a strong personal connection.
Her inspiration came, in part, from meeting Dr. Trey Berry, SAU president. “I thought immediately, ‘this person is genuine.’ There is a warmth about him I was so delighted to see. It reminded me of my days at SAU and the people I encountered.”
A subsequent visit to campus further energized her. “It brought back so many memories,” she enthused. “I saw all the progress that has been made, the expanded programs and facilities.”
At an awards ceremony on campus, Barnes realized that, as a student, she had received a scholarship endowed by one of the persons recognized. “I remember that scholarship,” she said. “At the time, I didn’t realize the significance of what it meant. It is so easy to it take for granted.”
Her SAU experience meant more than textbooks and classrooms. “I saw the most caring and compassionate professors. They made a huge impact.”
At graduation, one of her professors presented her with an encouraging poem written on the occasion of Barnes’ father’s passing. “I still have that poem,” Barnes said. “I have thought a lot about the example that was set.”
Many faculty influenced Barnes in ways large and small. She recalled the help of Dr. Ann Thomas, who encouraged Barnes to apply for an internship with the Arkansas Department of Corrections. “They were hiring only male interns, and didn’t know what to do when I applied. Dr. T, as I called her, told me I should speak to the superintendent. I did, and ended up getting the job. My husband of 45 years also worked there, so she gets credit for that, too!”
Barnes said it is important to remember where the financial resources come from to fund scholarships.
From growing up on a farm, to working internationally for a major corporation, Barnes expressed amazement at her life’s trajectory. Now she is expressing her gratitude to SAU for helping her get started.
“I feel strongly that it’s the right thing to do,” Barnes said of giving back to future Muleriders. “It truly is a matter of the heart. I hope that ‘paying it forward’ has the same impact on someone else’s life as it had on mine.”