A passionate educator and visionary leader, former Colgate University President Vincent M. Barnett, Jr., passed away on February 11 at the age of 92.
Barnett came to Colgate in 1963 as the University’s 10th President. For the next six years, he presided over a period of significant change and expansion on the hill.
“The shape of Colgate today was, in many ways, formed during the tenure of President Barnett,” University President Rebecca Chopp said. “He served during a time of great change for this nation and for this university, and we are indebted to him for his service to Colgate.”
As President, Barnett revolutionized the University’s fundraising efforts, introducing the Colgate Renewal and Improvement Sesquicentennial Campaign. He worked to implement a new academic curriculum and to provide additional opportunities for off-campus study.
Barnett’s tenure in Hamilton was distinguished by a number of ambitious construction projects. Andy Kerr Stadium, Dana Arts Center and the O’Connor Campus Center were all completed during his six years at Colgate, along with two residence hall complexes, Reid Athletic Center and the Seven Oaks Golf Course.
But Barnett’s most significant legacy to Colgate is the diversity of its student body. The Board of Trustees voted to admit women in 1967 and Barnett was instrumental in soothing race relations on campus after students and faculty members staged a sit-in in James B. Colgate Hall in 1968.
Barnett was a talented teacher and offered a course titled “The Politics of Economic Development” while serving as Colgate’s President.
Before coming to Hamilton, he was a professor at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he helped to found the college’s Center for Development Economics in 1960. The center offers a Master’s degree to civil servants from developing countries. Graduates have gone on to influential positions in their home countries, serving as ambassadors, treasury secretaries, and Prime Ministers.
“Vince Barnett has left a remarkable legacy, not just at Williams but around the world,” Williams College President Morton Owen Schapiro said.
“Many students had the privilege of learning directly from this great teacher and mentor. Many more benefited from his vision in helping to devise the Program in Political Economy and Center for Development Economics, where they acquired analytical skills they went on to apply in policy making positions worldwide.”
Barnett also helped to design Williams’ concentration in Political Economy, a program that examines the relationship between politics and economics in forming public policy.
Barnett returned to Williams College after leaving Colgate and retired from his teaching duties there in 1984.
Throughout his career, Barnett served the U.S. government in a number of influential roles. During World War II, he worked for the Office of Price Administration and the War Production Board. He went on to work with the Economic Cooperation Administration Mission in Italy before becoming Chief of Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Rome. Barnett also served as an economic advisor in Malaysia and Egypt. The State Department awarded him the Superior Service Medal for his contributions to U.S. diplomacy in 1960.
Barnett earned a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Los Angeles and received a doctorate from Harvard University in 1938. His hobbies included singing, square dancing and gardening. Barnett raised five children with wife, Barbara, and was active in community life in Williamstown, Massachusetts.