In Memory of Dr. Waddell Barnes (1925-2014)

As many of you may have heard, Dr. Waddell Barnes, Trustee Emeritus for the Middle Georgia State College Foundation—for whom our Botanical Gardens are named—passed away yesterday at his home here in Macon.  Dr. Barnes served on the Macon State College Board of Trustees from 1998-2011 and chaired its Foundation until 2008.

A Harvard University Medical School graduate whose practice in internal medicine and oncology spanned decades, his association with what would become MGA also included serving as a health education advisor. Dr. Barnes combined his interest in MGA and horticulture by leading the development of a 418-acre botanical garden with the goal of allowing students and faculty to live, work, and learn in a world class garden.

After becoming a master gardener, Dr. Barnes headed a committee of community volunteers that helped carry out his vision by donating new plants, soliciting funding, establishing a horticulture resources collection in the library, and creating an annual lecture series that focuses on horticulture. Recognizing Dr. Barnes’ longtime support of the college, then-Macon State College President David A. Bell asked the Board of Regents to name the botanical gardens after him. The official dedication of the Waddell Barnes Botanical Gardens took place in spring 2003.

In the following years, the Gardens received numerous awards including the Award of Excellence from the Board of Regents, the Arbor Day Foundation Lawrence Enersen Award, the Carolyn Crayton Award from Keep Macon Bibb Beautiful, and the National Garden Club’s Award of Excellence. Dr. Barnes’ legacy here at MGA, however, extends far beyond the gardens that bear his name.

Dr. Barnes’ entire career was marked by a passion for service. Whether serving our country in the Navy or focusing his medical practice on those affected by cancer, whether founding a Medical School in the region or serving as chair of our Board, Dr. Barnes identified needs and worked tirelessly to meet them. It is fitting then, that his memorial service will be held here on campus (in the Professional Services Center on Saturday, October 11 at 11am), and that his important legacy continue to take root and flourish in a place where he spent countless hours.  The memorial service is taking place at the same time as the first Inauguration week activity – The Fun Run – and I am very grateful that former President David Bell has accepted my invitation to represent the College and offer remarks on behalf of the Office of President at the memorial service.

By definition, a master gardener provides volunteer leadership and service to his community in the area of horticulture, from organizing a garden clinic to spearheading a beautification project. But a closer look at those two words—master and gardener—reveals much about Dr. Barnes and the role he played here in middle Georgia and indeed statewide. One definition of master is “a person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation, art, or science.” And one definition of gardener is “a person who is employed to cultivate or care for.”

Dr. Barnes was eminently skilled in many fields—gardening among them. My hope is that we who are tasked with educating the next generation of leaders in Georgia will look to his example and encourage students to emulate Dr. Barnes’ passion for cultivating service, something he practiced as both an art and a science.

We offer our sincerest condolences and I offer my prayers to the Barnes family at this sad loss and I know that we shall commit to honor Dr. Waddell Barnes’ legacy here at MGA.