Retired Colonel Robert L. Barnes receives MSU Honorary Doctor of Public Service

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Pictured are Dr. David Shaw (MSU provost), Ret. Col. Dr Robert L. Barnes; and Dr. Mark Keenum (MSU president)

Starkville, Mississippi – Mississippi State University president, Mark Keenum presided over the 2022 graduation ceremonies on Friday, May 13th in the Humphrey Coliseum as part of the weekend long schedule of graduations for all students.

The 2022 graduation ceremonies were special because, for the first time, retired Colonel Robert L. Barnes received an Honorary Doctor of Public Service for his efforts rendered to his community and Mississippi State University.  

Colonel Robert Barnes is a native of Brookhaven, Mississippi and graduated from Eva Harris High School as its salutatorian, becoming a first-generation college student who attended Mississippi State University and attained his undergraduate sociology degree in 1972.  Afterwards, Barnes entered the United States Army as the first ever African American ROTC cadet to be commissioned as an officer from Mississippi State University.  While in service, Barnes held various leadership roles, stateside and abroad, and earned several military awards, including the Legion of Merit. He retired from service in 2004 with the rank of Colonel. 

Upon his return to civilian life, Barnes continued his formal education at the Florida Institute of Technology where he received a master’s degree in transportation management. As part of the civilian workforce, he held positions in logistics and human resources management at Pepsi Cola, General Electric, Systems Management America, and Walmart Logistics. 

As a proud alumni of Mississippi State University, Barnes became a staunch supporter of and actively involved in the activities and projects of the Central Mississippi Alumni Chapter where he has worked tirelessly to the present day. As chair of the Black Alumni Advisory Council, which Colonel Barnes helped to organize in 2016, he has been active in keeping the Black alumni abreast of ways to support its constituency through Homecoming festivities, meetings, and university employment opportunities and appointments.  Frequently, Barnes alerts the Black alumni of ways to support MSU through scholarships and specifically targeted degree offerings that could benefit from a pool of diverse applicants, especially African Americans. 

Colonel Barnes walked across the stage at the Humphrey Coliseum on Friday, May 13, 2022, and was bestowed an Honorary Doctor of Public Service from the College of Arts and Sciences – the highest recognition that Mississippi State University can bestow upon an individual. 

Barnes said, “By God’s grace and His faithfulness to the prayers of our ancestors, I am blessed to receive the Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.  This degree may have my name on it, but I give all the glory to God and accept it in the name of others who have gone above and beyond to serve and did not receive proper recognition.  The only thing I can add to this is ‘praise God from whom all blessings flow.’”

Colonel Robert L. Barnes is married for the past 17 years to retired Brigadier General Margaret Campbell Barnes of Waynesboro, MS.  Margaret and Robert are the parents of four children and five granddaughters.  At present, the Barnes family resides in Byram, Mississippi.

Additionally, Robert P. “Bob” Bowen was also awarded the MSU Honorary Doctorate degree posthumously. He was also Alumnus of the Year for the College of Arts and Sciences 2016. 

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Retired Colonel Robert L. Barnes receives MSU Honorary Doctor of Public Service

By Brinda Fuller Willis
June 12, 2022