Bill Barnhardt ’50 remembers playing on a YMCA basketball team when he was a kid in Charlotte, N.C., but his connection with the YMCA didn’t end there.
As a student at NC State, Barnhardt was a member of the cabinet of the campus YMCA, which at the time functioned as something of a student union. As a textile executive, Barnhardt continued to be involved in the YMCA, serving in leadership roles on the board of directors and board of trustees for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, and later as vice chairman of the YMCA of the USA.
This summer, Barnhardt was inducted into the YMCA Hall of Fame, making history by being one of the first volunteers to receive the national honor. (Another was John D. Rockefeller Jr., who was inducted posthumously.)
Barnhardt remembers receiving the letter informing him of the recognition. After reading that Rockefeller was one of the other inductees, “I laughed out loud,” he says. “It said he had given a million dollars. I said, ‘Well, I’m not giving a million dollars.’ I laughed and put the letter aside.”
Not long after that he got a phone call from Andy Calhoun, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, telling him he was going to be inducted at ceremony in Philadelphia.
“He’s a visionary guy,” Calhoun says. “We are the eighth-largest Y in the United States. I lay a lot of that at Bill’s feet. He inspired a lot of people to get involved.’’ In addition, Calhoun says, Barnhardt has a “pure servant’s heart….He does not crave recognition, but enjoys seeing things happen.”
Barnhardt says one of the accomplishments that he is most proud of is his work to rehabilitate the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly near Black Mountain, N.C. The facility was built in 1906 as a Christian conference center, but was plagued by financial problems and only operated during the summer. In 1968, Barnhardt spearheaded a $5 million capital campaign to expand the facility and renovate so it could operate as a year-round debt-free enterprise. Today it serves 30,000 guests annually.
“It’s been an interesting life,” Barnhardt says. “But the most interesting thing that’s happened to me was getting this award from the Y in front of 4,000 people.”
— Sylvia Adcock ’81