Karen Bartoni honors father with new scholarship for veterans

Karen Bartoni

In her father’s honor, staff member Karen Bartoni has created a scholarship that will benefit veterans studying at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When Karen Bartoni’s father passed away two years ago, she knew she wanted to honor his legacy. Her father, Gerald Allen Barbee, had served for over two decades in the military and, after leaving the service, had a full second career as a blast furnace engineer.

“Everything was about the military with him,” recalls Bartoni, who is a business specialist with the English and history departments at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. “Growing up our house was run like a training camp. When we made our beds he’d even bounce a quarter on the sheets to make sure it had been pulled tight.”

Karen Bartoni and her father

Gerald Allen Barbee and his daughter, UMSL staff member Karen Bartoni (Click image to enlarge.)

Bartoni says that her father grew up on a farm in rural Illinois with 13 brothers and sisters, and after ninth grade he was expected to work full-time on the land. He had other ideas though. He joined the service and during his 21-year military career received two Bronze Star Medals, a Purple Heart and a Meritorious Service Medal.

Bartoni says that in her father’s mind, military service was closely linked with education. Barbee had gotten his GED through the service, and throughout his time in the U.S. Army he took all the training classes he could. He even learned how to be a film projectionist. It was all the training he elected to receive that allowed him to have a career, post-military, as a blast furnace engineer for Granite City Steel. It was also a great point of pride for Barbee then when his daughter, Karen, completed her undergraduate studies and went on to earn a master’s degree as well.

“He passed away two years ago,” Bartoni says. “For a long time I thought about how I could honor him. His service to his country was so important to him along with education. Since we have so many veterans here at UMSL, it seemed the best way to honor him would be through the Veterans Center, helping young men and women who are coming back and furthering their education.”

Thanks to Bartoni’s effort and generosity, the 1st Sgt. Gerald A. Barbee Veterans Endowed Jubilee Scholarship will begin accepting applicants next year, and the first recipient will receive the scholarship for the fall of 2015. The scholarship will be worth $1,000 a year for three years. Once the scholarship is fully up and running, there will be three veteran students receiving the scholarship at any one time.

According to Jim Craig, chair of the Department of Military and Veterans Studies, the scholarship won’t be awarded solely on the basis of academics.

“It is really awarded based on who you are as a veteran, who you are as a student and who you are as a member of the community,” he says.

At Bartoni’s insistence, the scholarship money is not limited to just being used to pay for classes.

“There are a lot of expenses that students can incur outside of paying for classes,” she says. “We wanted there to be money available for those sorts of things that come up so that veteran students can put their focus on their education.”

The scholarship will be announced officially later this year on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11.


This story was written by alumnus Ryan Krull, MFA 2014, a student support specialist who also teaches writing courses at UMSL.

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