Bethel University President Jay Barnes Announces Retirement

Barnes became the fifth president of Bethel University in 2008 and will step down from the role on June 30, 2020.

By Suzanne McInroy, director of communications

February 28, 2019 | 11:30 a.m.

President Emeritus Jay Barnes

President Emeritus Jay Barnes

Bethel University President Jay Barnes announced today his plans to retire, effective June 30, 2020. The announcement came during a Board of Trustees-sponsored chapel celebration with the community. Barnes is the fifth president of Bethel University, a role he has held since July 2008.

Barnes and his wife Barb moved to Minnesota in 1995 when he started the role of provost at Bethel. Before Bethel, Barnes served as the dean for student development and vice president for student development for 15 years at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. He was a residence director at Wheaton College in Illinois for four years, and served as teacher, vice principal, and then principal at Black Forest Academy in Kandern, Germany, in the early-mid 1970s.

“As I reflect on my career, I am thankful to God that Barb has walked with me through the good times and the difficulties of life and work,” says Barnes. “It has been a blessing and one of my life’s greatest joys to serve and be a part of the Bethel community.”

As provost, Barnes led the educational team of three schools and helped to navigate the shift from Bethel College and Bethel Seminary to Bethel University in 2004. Barnes established the Edgren Scholars program that allows faculty and students to receive grant money for summer research projects. During his presidency, Barnes strived to make the Bethel community better reflect the diversity experienced in the body of Christ.

“Our community has become more diverse in race, ethnicity, gender, and ability. In 2014 we added two programs that have aided our cause: BUILD and Act Six,” says Barnes. “In addition, our percentage of students of color has increased from 9% in 2008 to 19% in 2018.”

Under Barnes’s leadership, Bethel University continued to lead as one of the largest Christian colleges in the nation; focused more on science and research, earning six National Science Foundation grants; grew the business and economics department and programs, adding the Student Managed Investment Fund; became nationally known for various athletics programs; and reshaped campus, adding spaces like the Wellness Center and Anderson Center, which both have created space for quality student experiences for years to come.

In the next 16 months, Barnes will focus on finishing his presidency well. “I am committed to continuing our pursuit of becoming the Christ-centered university of choice for this century where students choose us because we are unafraid to tackle the world's most challenging problems for God's glory and our neighbors' good,” says Barnes.

During the recent Board of Trustees meeting, the board initiated plans for a presidential search process, which will be shared with the community in the coming weeks.

“The board is deeply thankful for President Barnes and his unwavering commitment and leadership of Bethel University. Over the next 16 months, the board looks forward to continuing our partnership with him. We have many important priorities that we will continue to pursue while also celebrating the leadership and impact of President Barnes,” says Julie White, chair of the Bethel Board of Trustees. “His passion for students and this community shine through in the thousands of relationships he’s formed during his 25 years at Bethel. We want to honor and celebrate him.”