Jay and Barb Barnes Honored at Presidential Retirement Celebration

Friends from far and near joined the Bethel community in gathering for a socially distanced Presidential Retirement Celebration honoring the lasting legacy of President Emeritus Jay and Barb Barnes.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

September 16, 2020 | 9 a.m.

Barnes Retirement

Jay and Barb Barnes served at Bethel University for 25 years.

It’s been a long goodbye. Farewell events honoring President Emeritus Jay and Barb Barnes were scheduled for spring 2020 but postponed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rescheduled events were held in mid-September—including Chapel farewells, open house receptions on campus, and a Presidential Retirement Celebration on September 11 at Quincy Hall in Minneapolis.

Retirement Gala

Colleagues, family, and friends gathered at socially distanced tables to honor the retirement of President Emeritus Jay Barnes.

About 150 people gathered for the socially distanced retirement celebration honoring the lasting legacy of the Barnes’ leadership and service to Bethel. Tributes came from diverse voices representing the many ways Jay and Barb have influenced those around them: their family, students, higher education in general, the church, and Bethel University.


A final JayTalking: Jay Barnes gets in some closing words at his retirement celebration.

For 25 years, Jay and Barb have served the Bethel community, beginning in 1995 when Jay became Bethel’s provost. In 2008, he became the fifth president of Bethel University. His quarter-century of leadership was marked by his unique gifts and passions: a heart for students, a passion for diversity, and a desire to invest in people. On September 11, 2020, those people spoke of his character, his commitment, and his vision.

Retirement Candid

Jay and Barb Barnes share a bittersweet moment as they celebrate an ending—and a beginning.

Through seasons of growth, challenge, and change, Jay advanced and enhanced Bethel’s mission, building on the firm foundation established by leaders before him and casting a bold vision for those to follow. It’s been a longer goodbye than anyone expected, but perhaps that’s fitting for Jay and Barb Barnes, who served the Bethel community with such commitment for so long.