Dr. Barnett

Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, legendary figure in William Woods history, to step down as University president

Longest-serving and first female president in University history will officially step away during her 31st year as president, on Dec. 31, 2021

Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, a transformational individual who has shaped William Woods University (WWU) profoundly in her over 30 years leading the university, today officially announced her intention to conclude her tenure as president at the end of the current calendar year. Dr. Barnett, president of WWU since 1990 and a fixture at the institution since arriving in 1973, made the announcement today in a message to the campus community.

Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett

“Being a university president brings with it many challenging decisions. Today, I announce the toughest decision I have ever made at this institution,” said President Barnett. “After 30 years as president of William Woods, I have decided it is time to pass the gavel.”

The university will be announcing a presidential search committee, the first at WWU in more than three decades, in the coming days. President Barnett’s tenure at the helm is scheduled to conclude on December 31, 2021, allowing the university a period of transition to the next president.

Dr. Barnett will complete her final year as president secure in her place in William Woods’ 151-year history, achieving such milestones as being the longest-serving president in university history, and first female to hold the position. Beyond William Woods, Dr. Barnett is also the longest-serving female president of a four-year college or university in Missouri history, and is currently serving the second-longest active tenure of any four-year college or university president in the state. But her legacy at William Woods goes well beyond her length of service.

Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett

Since her appointment as president on April 21, 1990, President Barnett’s leadership over the past quarter century has revolutionized WWU from a regional, liberal arts women’s college to a coeducational university offering paths from associate to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

“I was truly grateful to have Dr. Barnett as a professor, and see her grow the WWU community from so many perspectives,” said Romaine Sequin, chair of the William Woods University Board of Trustees. “Her impact on William Woods is unparalleled, and she will be dearly missed by all.”

Over the past 30 plus years, President Barnett has guided the university through a generation of extraordinary change, including the following:

  • An increase in total student enrollment from just over 700 in 1990 to more than 2,200 currently;
  • Institution of the transition to university status in 1993, and to coeducational status in 1996;
  • Establishment of graduate-level, online, study abroad and 12 new academic programs, to help meet the challenge of society’s changes in technology and the workplace, expanding from a campus-centric delivery model to a university that serves students with a mix of on-campus, regional and online options;
  • Creation of a variety of out-of-classroom programs and experiences to augment a student’s well-rounded education, including the Woods Around the World study-abroad program, and the Mentor/Mentee, Service Learning and LEAD co-curricular programs;
  • Elimination of the university’s long-term debt while maintaining an operating budget in the black for 18 straight years;
  • Direction of an explosion of infrastructure and capital improvements on the WWU main campus in Fulton, including the construction of the Center for Equine Medicine, Center for Human Performance, Kemper Center for the Arts, Rowland Applied Riding Arena, Firley Soccer Field, a new baseball/softball complex, Anderson Arena, four new sorority residence halls, new residence hall complexes and numerous renovations and upgrades;
  • Oversight of a nearly 250 percent increase in the university’s endowment from $5.7 million to $19.6 million currently.

Due to President Barnett’s vision, William Woods University is thriving in the competitive world of private, liberal arts colleges.

“Our university is in a good place to transition to a new president, thanks to the commitment of countless quality individuals I have had the pleasure of working with over these many years,” said President Barnett. “We have achieved many great things together, and I cannot adequately express the appreciation, honor and privilege I feel from being a part of the William Woods community for 48 years.”

Also the first president to be promoted from within in WWU history, Dr. Barnett served as Vice President of Admissions, Retention and Development at the university from 1983-1990. Her relationship with William Woods began in 1973, when she joined the university as Chair of the Department of Business and Economics.