William Woods University President Honored by Ole Miss for her Leadership

Dr. Barnett with students


Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, who will soon begin her 20th year as president of William Woods University, has been named 2009 Alumnus of the Year by the University of Mississippi School of Education. Barnett is WWU’s only woman president in its nearly 120-year history.


At age 19, Barnett earned a bachelor of science degree in business from Arkansas State University. By age 24, she had earned two graduate degrees from Ole Miss—a master of business education degree and a Ph.D. in higher education and student personnel services.


“Her success and accomplishments in the field of higher education administration are tremendous,” Tom Burnham, dean of the University of Mississippi School of Education, said in presenting the award.


Barnett is a rarity among university and college presidents. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, only 8 percent of college presidents have held the position for 16-20 years. Barnett is in her 19th year. In addition, only 23 percent of colleges and universities have a female president.   


At William Woods in various roles since 1973, Barnett was appointed president in 1990. As president, she led the management team in the development of undergraduate and graduate degree programs for working adults, transition from college to university status, and transition from single-sex to coeducational enrollment. 


Under her guidance, the university has maintained fiscal stability and fiscal growth while expanding enrollment from 500 to more than 3,500 students representing most states and many foreign countries. Through its outreach program, WWU has taken its degree programs to approximately 150 locations in Missouri and Arkansas.


Known for her strong involvement with students, her dedication to health and fitness and her business etiquette seminars, Barnett stays connected through a group of students, President’s Twenty, who meet with her on a regular basis and serve as liaison between the student body and the president’s office.


Barnett’s accomplishments have been acknowledged frequently as she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Inaugural First Lady in Education Award for the State of Missouri in 2008, “National Chief Executive Leadership Award” from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), “Arkansas State University Distinguished Alumnus,” “Arkansas State University Outstanding Business Alumni,” Mid-Missouri Magazine‘s “Twenty Most Influential Women in Mid-Missouri” and “Woman of Achievement,” selected by the National Alpha Omicron Pi Foundation.


Barnett has been married to Eddie Barnett, also a graduate of Ole Miss, for 42 years. He is the owner of BARCO L.L.C., a real estate development company, and Quality Truck Washes, Inc. In addition to their home in Fulton, Mo., they have a home in Santa Fe, N.M.




CUTLINE: Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, president of William Woods University, visits with students as she strolls the WWU campus. Barnett recently was named 2009 Alumnus of the Year by the University of Mississippi School of Education.