Dr. Barnhart grew up in Beeville, Texas and soon recognized this community is unique. When he grew up, he studied medicine and went on to practice orthopedic surgery in Houston for 35 years. The Baylor College of Medicine Orthopedic Surgery Department is named for him.
In 1988, Dr. Barnhart established the Joe Barnhart Foundation to work toward the development and expansion of educational and cultural opportunities for the people of Beeville, particularly the children of our community. The Joe Barnhart Foundation Trustees are dedicated to carrying out the vision of Dr. Barnhart. He chose trustees who had worked with him and whose work performance he knew. The original board members were Dr. Barnhart, Jack Bace, Walter Baker, Maggie Price, and Richard Viebig. Jack Bace, Walter Baker, and Richard Viebig had financial and tax expertise. Maggie Price had worked for him for many years in business management including construction, renovation and leasing buildings.
After Dr. Barnhart's death in 1993, the board of trustees asked Margaret Moser, a distinguished Beeville civic leader and historian, to join the board. Mrs. Moser resigned in 2009. Lou Adele May, of Beeville, has been selected as a trustee to replace Mrs. Moser. Mr. Bace died suddenly in 2008, and George Tallichet was selected to replace him. Present trustees are Baker, Price, Viebig, Tallichet, and May. Baker, Viebig, and Tallichet serve as the financial committee for the Foundation. Price continues as Executive Director, program creator and program developer.
The Joe Barnhart Foundation not only funds several multi-faceted programs for the educational enrichment of Beeville students; they actually created and operate many of these programs! Joe Barnhart Foundation trustees are profoundly aware of Dr. Barnhart's wishes, and trustee attention focuses toward those ends. In carrying out his wishes, they believe that the programs the Foundation has created have enhanced Beeville and made it an even more unique place. They fully realize that they could not accomplish any of their goals without the enthusiastic help of Beeville citizens.
Through its programs and funding, the Foundation has taken a systematic approach to improving the education and lives of every student living in Bee County. Over the past 13 years, the Foundation has contributed over $1 million annually to programs in Beeville. The 2012 budget is set at $1,315,000 for Beeville educational and cultural programs.
The Joe Barnhart Scholarship Program, housed at A. C. Jones High School, was created to motivate and assist Beeville students in receiving post-secondary education or vocational training. To date, the program has benefited 1,650 students since the program began in 1998. The program is unique in Texas in two ways: the collaboration between a public school and a private foundation - and the one-on-one relationship of each student with a volunteer mentor.
Over 50 volunteers work with students to counsel, encourage and assist students individually in completing paperwork necessary to obtain college admission and financial aid. Currently, the program Director has acquired $20 million in financial aid for Beeville students! In addition, the Foundation provides financial assistance for some students.
The Foundation funds a $30,000 college Scholar's Award annually to an A. C. Jones High School student. The purpose of this award is to encourage superior students to excel. The award is not necessarily based on the highest scholastic standing and takes into account the student's potential for contribution to the world in areas of civics, religion, other humanities, business or professions, and the arts. Three $5,000 awards each year are given to runners-up for the Scholar's Award. The benefits to the students and the school system have been remarkable. Since the program began, Beeville school officials have noted a rise in the number of students taking college entrance exams and a decline in the student drop-out rate.
The Beeville Art Museum was created primarily for children's education in 2000. The Museum worked with the Beeville school district and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in its curriculum that involves Beeville students K through 12 learning through tours and classes with the thought that if a child's creativity can be developed, not only will his own life be enhanced, but he might learn to think laterally and therefore improve his math and physics knowledge and grades.
Part of the art program the Foundation established with BISD brings the entire 6th grade gifted and talented class to Houston for study at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In 2009, the group studied the King Tut exhibition. Beeville teachers have distance learning experiences through the MFAH as well as access to that museum's Kinder Education Center. Beeville Art Museum offers tours to all students, not just those in BISD. Tours and a workshop are available to adults as well.
The Museum is housed in the Esther Barnhart House which Dr. Barnhart purchased in 1983 and named for his mother. The Museum's Director works to bring valuable exhibits in various mediums, including painting, photography, print making, textiles, ceramics, folk art and sculpture, from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the San Antonio Art Museum and collections and artists from across the state. Past exhibits have included Old Masters from the Blaffer Collection and Frederic Remington and African Gold from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
A thriving, state-of-the art library was one of Dr. Barnhart's dreams. In creating the Joe Barnhart Bee County Library, the Foundation funded $4 million for build-out, equipment and furnishings. Custom-made and signed Thomas Moser furnishings are featured throughout the building. A glass addition, including a glass elevator, was added to the historic 1906 Praeger Building owned by the Foundation. The Foundation worked with the community to make this dream a reality. The library opened March 3, 2001.
Located on the courthouse square, the library provides modern technology, critically acclaimed databases, a large print collection, and digital books for circulation. It was one of the first public libraries in the country to use the newest 3M Digital Identification System. It offers distance learning, video-conferences, and TexShare cards, a program enabling patrons to check out books from participating libraries across the state. The library provides over 26 public access computer workstations with high speed internet connections as well as wireless services for citizens wanting to use their own laptops. The library has over 40,000 volumes, including a first edition Samuel Johnson dictionary dated 1755.
The Foundation contributes $250,000 annually to the library's budget; Bee County, City of Beeville and BISD also make annual budget contributions. The Foundation funds all building repairs and maintenance costs (around $60,000 annually) and charges the library $1 per year rent.
The Step-Ahead Program was created in 2008 as part of the Joe Barnhart Scholarship Program. Step-Ahead begins during the freshman year of high school. The primary goals are to motivate students to be interested in higher education. Step-Ahead focuses on aptitude testing and exploration of students' interests and possibilities. The Foundation carries out Field Trips for middle school students. Studies involve Texas history at Goliad. Seventh graders are brought to Houston to experience cultural events including museums, a play or ballet or opera performance, ice skating, and eating foods they have not tried before. Eighth graders study history and experience cultural events in San Antonio. The Director of the field trips program is assisted by teachers and parents on the trips. In this way, the Foundation hopes to open windows to the wider world.
In 2008, the Foundation created the Kinder to College Program. This program is aimed at combating the drop-out problem, beginning in kindergarten. In 2010, the program was extended into middle school. The Director works with BISD educators in providing enrichment opportunities and motivating students to enjoy learning.
Funds for Spanish Immersion Scholarships for study in Puerto Rico are provided for students attending A.C. Jones and Coastal Bend College.
Other contributions to BISD are for Neuhaus Teacher Training, Academic Decathlon, Certified Nursing Program, Dual Credit College Books, STAAR text books, annual lectureship, PSAT funding, and teacher appreciation.
The Foundation funds two $7,500 scholarships at Coastal Bend College for students transferring to four-year colleges.
Three parks for community enjoyment have been created. The large park surrounding the Beeville Art Museum was named the Joe Barnhart Park, named for Dr. Barnhart's father. The Wilhelmina Barnhart Park, named for Dr. Barnhart's wife, is at St. Mary's and Corpus Christi. The Jack Bace Park on Corpus Christi was created in honor of Jack Bace. The Margaret Moser Butterfly Garden, named in honor of Margaret's service on the board, is in the Jack Bace Park.
The Foundation also contributes to a variety of local service organizations, educational based institutions and charities;
These include Bee County Adult Literary, Beeville Boys & Girls Club, Beeville Community Chorus, Beeville Vineyard, Coastal Bend College - Kid's College, Earning by Learning, Fiesta Bee County - Ballet Folklorico, First Baptist Church School scholarships, First Christian Church Arts Program, Hall-Rialto Children's Theater, OATH Pharmaceutical Assistance Program, St. Mary's Charter School, St. Philip' s Episcopal School scholarships, and bringing the San Antonio Symphony to Beeville for two concerts for elementary school students during the school day and one evening performance for students and the community.
These efforts enrich our community, our spirits, and our minds. They make Beeville one of the best places in Texas to grow up, live, learn and work.