In commemoration of National Social Work Month in March, the School of Social Work in Falk College will present its annual Dan and Mary Lou Rubenstein Social Justice Awards program from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in 200 White…
Trustee Sharon Barner’s ’79 Historic Gift Names 119 Euclid While Providing Support to Black, First-Generation and Underrepresented Students
Everywhere Sharon Barner ’79 has worked, she has achieved success at the highest levels of her field—as partner at a law firm, as deputy under secretary of commerce and deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in President Barack Obama’s administration, as a trusted expert in intellectual property law and now as a corporate leader.
And now, Barner is paying it forward. Thanks to her generous and transformative donation as part of the Forever Orange campaign, Barner’s latest gift of $1 million will ensure the future of 119 Euclid—a space that celebrates the Black student experience and honors their contributions to the Syracuse University community. In recognition of the gift, the building will be renamed the Barner-McDuffie House—in honor of Barner, a Syracuse University trustee, and her husband, Haywood McDuffie.
“Sharon and Haywood are passionate benefactors, ambassadors and supporters of Syracuse University, and especially our students,” says Chancellor Kent Syverud. “This gift allows the University to continue expanding meaningful opportunities for students to build a sense of belonging and community here at Syracuse. I am grateful to Sharon and Haywood for their generosity and vision and look forward to celebrating their philanthropy later this year during Coming Back Together.”
This is the first building on North Campus named by an African American family through philanthropic support. In addition to endowing 119 Euclid’s future, the gift will enhance scholarship opportunities for first-generation and underrepresented students and strengthen cultural, academic and social student-led activities that promote Black culture.
“I came through Syracuse University during a period of change across the 1970s. As an African American female, I found a community that was supportive of all the things I thought I could do with my life,” says Barner, who is now vice president and chief administrative officer at Cummins Inc., an Indiana-based multinational known as a global leader in power technology. “As I looked to give back, it was about both giving back to Syracuse and to people who had experiences like myself. I wanted to help make sure they had the foundations they needed, both through finding community and scholarship.”
Reflecting on her days on campus, which served as a formative experience, Barner felt there was something missing from her Orange journey: a dedicated space for Black students to gather, share their experiences and feel at home on the University campus. Barner is excited to see how her donation will inspire and make a lasting impact on students for years to come.
Creating Sense of Home and Family
The first time Barner walked inside 119 Euclid, she understood why this was a special place for Black students. From the friendly faces greeting her to the enticing aromas emanating from the kitchen, Barner says she instantly felt at peace and knew this was a project to which she wanted to contribute.
“It felt like there were a million mothers telling me to ‘come in and be comfortable.’ I felt like I was home. There was this sense of family. You have a community of people who are going to help keep you safe, mentally and physically, while helping you grow as a person,” says Barner, whose son, Haywood McDuffie III ’17, also graduated from Syracuse. “Students feel included when you have those kinds of spaces, knowing you have a village that supports you.”
“Affinity spaces such as the Barner-McDuffie House are critical for community-building, leadership development and student success. This space, under Marissa Willingham’s leadership, has helped our students cultivate a sense of belonging at Syracuse,” says Mary Grace Almandrez, vice president for diversity and inclusion. “I’m excited to see the innovative programs that will be hosted in and through the space.”
Besides her academic pursuits, Barner found her community through her involvement in a number of activities at Syracuse University—from being a cheerleader and joining the Delta Sigma Theta sorority to writing for The Daily Orange and teaching English as a second language to Spanish-speaking children in the City of Syracuse.
Inspiring Fellow First-Generation Students
A first-generation college student, Barner understands the financial stresses families can face trying to pay for higher education. That was the other driving force behind this gift, which will also support the Our Time Has Come Scholarship Program, which provides critical financial assistance, leadership training and alumni mentorship for first-generation and underrepresented students at Syracuse University.
“I want those students to know that someone like me knows what they’re going through and is rooting for them to be successful at Syracuse University and beyond. I hope one day these students will look back, understand the value of their Syracuse education and feel compelled to give back to future generations of students,” says Barner, who as a trustee is currently on the search committee charged with identifying the University’s next chief information officer.
“When you think of all that Sharon has accomplished as a first-generation graduate of Syracuse University, it’s clear that the Syracuse experience is a game changer. It’s wonderful that she continues to think deeply about the needs of current students through her philanthropy,” says Rachel Vassel ’91, G’21, associate vice president in the Office of Multicultural Advancement.
“Sharon’s generosity will help offer students more impactful programs and activities at the Barner-McDuffie House while furthering the space’s goals of providing a sense of community, a place to build connections and celebrate the outstanding contributions of the Black community on campus,” adds Allen Groves, senior vice president and chief student experience officer.
About Syracuse University
Syracuse University is a private research university that advances knowledge across disciplines to drive breakthrough discoveries and breakout leadership. Our collection of 13 schools and colleges with over 200 customizable majors closes the gap between education and action, so students can take on the world. In and beyond the classroom, we connect people, perspectives and practices to solve interconnected challenges with interdisciplinary approaches. Together, we’re a powerful community that moves ideas, individuals and impact beyond what’s possible.
About Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University
Orange isn’t just our color. It’s our promise to leave the world better than we found it. Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University is poised to do just that. Fueled by more than 150 years of fearless firsts, together we can enhance academic excellence, transform the student experience and expand unique opportunities for learning and growth. Forever Orange endeavors to raise $1.5 billion in philanthropic support, inspire 125,000 individual donors to participate in the campaign, and actively engage one in five alumni in the life of the University. Now is the time to show the world what Orange can do. Visit foreverorange.syr.edu to learn more.