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Barnettes donate Monongalia County family farm to WVU


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Longtime supporters of West Virginia University, alumni Curtis H. “Hank” Barnette and his wife, Joanne Harner Barnette, are donating to the University the Harner-Barnette farm which includes 10 acres of land outside Morgantown, a house and related buildings on the property with furnishings, and farm implements.

WVU intends to use the property, long-term, to develop single-family housing to support the recruitment and retention of faculty and staff, while celebrating the property’s heritage and historical purpose. The property has significant meaning to the Barnettes as it was Harner Barnette’s family homestead. 

“I want to express our sincere appreciation to Hank and Joanne for their shared vision and continued generosity to our great University,” said WVU President Gordon Gee. “The Morgantown housing market for single families is limited from an availability and affordability standpoint, which impacts the University’s ability to recruit and retain its talent. This donation will help in providing us with solutions.”

The home and property are located on Pleasant Hill Road between Brookhaven and Cheat Lake, not far from Interstate 68. 

“We are very pleased to contribute the Harner-Barnette farm to WVU, and we hope it will help assist in the future housing needs of the University,” the Barnettes said. “We wish to recognize and thank those who worked with us on this project, in particular, President Gee and Narvel Weese.”

WVU Foundation President and CEO Cindi Roth said, “For many people, real estate is one of their most valuable assets. Many times, it also has strong emotional ties, especially if the property has been in a family for generations. It can also be a very tax-efficient asset to use when making a significant gift. This generous gift of property from the Barnettes is a wonderful example of a very personal donation that addresses a specific University need. We are deeply indebted to Hank and Joanne for their continued loyal philanthropic commitment to WVU, and their trust placed in us to be good stewards of a gift so meaningful to them.”

Barnette graduated from WVU in 1956 with high honors and a bachelor’s degree in political science. He was a Fulbright Scholar in international law at Manchester University in England. He completed a law degree from Yale Law School and a business degree from Harvard Business School. He also has received honorary degrees from WVU, Lehigh University, Moravian College, DeSales University and the University of Charleston.

After serving Bethlehem Steel Corporation for 33 years as a lawyer, general counsel, chairman and CEO, he retired as chairman emeritus. He also spent many years thereafter working in corporate law, corporate governance, international trade and public policy with the international law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, LLP.

Though he has spent his post-graduate life primarily in Pennsylvania and Washington D.C, Barnette has remained loyal to his alma mater and the state of West Virginia since his time as a student. As an alumnus, he has served on numerous governing and advisory boards, including chairman of the WVU Board of Governors, now chairman emeritus, and chairman of the WVU Foundation Board of Directors, now director emeritus.

Barnette has been inducted into the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni and West Virginia Business Hall of Fame, and elected to the Order of Vandalia.  He was named Most Loyal Alumni Mountaineer, and in 2013, was awarded the Student Affairs Outstanding Achievement Award.

Harner Barnette earned her undergraduate degree from WVU, and while there, was a member of and president of Panhellenic Council and member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. She also holds a master’s degree in education from Lehigh University. She has served on the boards of the Lehigh University College of Education Advisory Board and the American Association of University Women.

Harner Barnette has been active in her community, serving in leadership roles as chair of the Allentown Art Museum of the Lehigh Valley, president of the Junior League of the Lehigh Valley, and the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation. She was instrumental in the founding of Partnership for a Drug Free Valley and Leadership Lehigh Valley, and is the recipient of numerous community and civic awards.

The Barnettes have established four scholarships at WVU; scholarships at Manchester University for WVU students; and student scholarships at six other universities based upon merit and need with preference given to West Virginians. They created a professorship in political science at WVU and an endowment at the WVU Libraries. Their donations have established a board of governors’ room at Erickson Alumni Center and a board room at Blaney House. Both are members of the WVU Foundation’s Woodburn Circle and Irvin Stewart Societies, as well as the Alumni Association’s Old Gold Club. In 2014, the couple was recognized by the WVU Foundation with its Outstanding Volunteer Philanthropists award. 

The Barnettes have donated other real estate for charitable purposes. In 2007, the Barnette Family Farm in Saint Albans, which was Hank’s family homestead, was donated to the state of West Virginia and the Coal River Group. It is now the Barnette Conservation Preserve. 

This recent gift from the Barnettes, who now reside in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was made in conjunction with “A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University” which runs through December. 



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