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Marguerite Ross Barnett

Marguerite Ross Barnett

Name:  Salute to Marguerite Ross Barnett
                              by Evelyn Edson

Date:  ca. 1990

Image Number:  Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Comments:  A tombstone in the Union Baptist Church Cemetery east of Scottsville marks the gravestone of Marguerite Ross Barnett (1942-1992).  Put up by her husband, Walter King, and her mother, Mary Eubanks, the stone also bears a quotation:  "We can either be bystanders to a passing twenty-first century historical drama of heroic proportions, or we can be leaders."

Those words of Dr. Barnett (shown above) illuminate a brillian academic career beginning with her education at Antioch College and the University of Chicago.  She trained as a political scientist, writing a book on The Politic of Cultural Nationalism in South India, and as a teacher first in Chicago, then moving on to Princeton, Howard, and Columbia University.  In 1983, she found her vocation in higher education to everyone, including women and minorities.  She felt that large metropolitan universities should have a mission to reach out to surrounding communities and help to solve social problems. 

As chancellor at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, Dr. Barnett was determined to raise the academic standards and accessibility of this satellite in the Missouri system.  When she went to the state, asking for money to expand the library, the Governor, John Ashcroft, said that if she could raise $1.2 million, he would give her the remaining $4.2 million needed.  Marguerite knew he was joking, but she was not.  She tackled the community and handily raised the $1.2 million.  She is still fondly remembered in St. Louis, where the University has dedicated a plaza in her honor.

In 1990, Dr. Barnett went on to the University of Houston, becoming the first Black female president of a university in the country.  Even in her short time there, she made her mark, expanding the recruitment of minority faculty and developing a program to reach out to disadvantaged young people in the community.  Unfortunately, cancer let to her early death in 1992.

Dr. Barnett is survived by her daughter, Amy duBois Barnett, a writer and magazine editor, whose career includes a stint as editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine.  It is not surprising that her middle name comes from the great Black American, W.E.B. duBois.  Among three people she most admires?  Her mother, Marguerite Ross Barnett.  Shown below is Dr. Barnes' gravestone at Union Baptist Church on Hardware Street in Scottsville:
Marguerite Ross Barnet's gravestone at Union Baptist Church

To learn more about Dr. Barnett, visit the website of the University of Missouri in St. Louis at:

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