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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Michael Horace Barnes: Professor Turned Philanthropist

Community. The word is ubiquitous when describing the University of Dayton. But Michael Barnes, a retired professor of religious studies, expanded it to include his house — opening it for student living.

Located just outside campus, Barnes’ home welcomed many Flyers over the years, offering them a safe place to live, study and gather — and providing Barnes with the inside scoop.

“They can tell me what’s really going on on campus,” Barnes laughed. 

Staying up-to-date on all of the happenings around campus not only helped him in his teaching and leadership, but built strong bonds and deepened his roots with the community, eventually inspiring his philanthropic endeavors.

The Paul Morman Endowed Scholarship

In 2021, Barnes established the Paul Morman Endowed Scholarship, supporting students who are a part of the Flyer Promise Scholars Program.

Barnes chose to support Flyer Promise not only because he cares about students, but also because he believes a UD education should be accessible for all. Flyer Promise assists students of all races and ethnicities from low socio-economic backgrounds, a testament to UD’s commitment to include and welcome a diverse class of undergraduate students.

Reflecting on the impact of the University’s efforts to increase accessibility, Barnes said he has noticed a significant increase in the number of students from underrepresented groups.

“They made great efforts to make sure that UD is available to all kinds of students,” Barnes said.

Barnes named the scholarship after the former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at UD, Paul Morman.

“I went for Paul because he was, I think, underappreciated. He was an excellent dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. No matter what he did, nobody got mad at him because he did it so well and so wisely,” Barnes explained.

Inspired by Morman’s humbleness, Barnes hopes to honor Morman’s wisdom and love for UD through his scholarship.

50 Years of Impact: Barnes’ Legacy at UD 

As a professor in the Department of Religious Studies and the Honors Program for a total of 50 years, Barnes made a lasting impact on a lot of Flyers. His classes immersed students in the study of human religiousness, encouraging them to engage with each other and within themselves, ask questions, remain open and stay curious.

Throughout his time at UD, Barnes’s favorite classes to teach were the introductory courses, as well as religion and science courses. In these latter courses, Barnes' teachings revolved around the impact of modern cosmology and biology on our perception of God and humanity's position in the universe. The classes covered a multitude of topics, including the contrasting methods employed in religion and science, all within a historical and philosophical framework. Ultimately, the classes led to an exploration of the fundamental question of why individuals hold varying beliefs.

The introductory classes allowed Barnes the opportunity to make an impact on students as they began to navigate their first year on campus.

“I enjoy first-year students. They’re rather malleable, you know,” he shared. “You can get them to start thinking about how to study — and whether they’re going to study — how to do exams and so forth.”

In addition to teaching, Barnes also developed lifelong relationships with Flyers through involvement in various leadership positions, like the Core Program, where he acted as director or teacher for multiple years.

Giving Back to the University: Barnes’ Commitment to Philanthropy

As a 35-year member of the Front Porch Society, the giving society that recognizes three consecutive years or more of giving, and a recent inductee into the John Stuart Society, which recognizes cumulative lifetime giving of $100,000 or more, Barnes has been a long-time supporter of the University. He continues to give back year after year, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

“I guess I’ve always felt that I’m lucky,” Barnes shared, reflecting on the good fortune that ultimately led him to invite Flyers into his home. “When I see all the pain and suffering in the world, I figure I had to share.”

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