Pearl River Community College held a dedication ceremony and ribbon cutting Tuesday for the newly completed James Barnes STEM Center.
“Today we bestow the honor of naming this building after a gentleman who was at the heart of this institution’s foundation,” PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood said. “His influence on Pearl River Community College and our students is immeasurable. This is a man that understood that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. We are honored and humbled to have your name cemented into the legacy of our college this morning.”
Barnes is originally from Oak Vale. He is an alum of PRCC and received his Associate in Arts degree before continuing on to the University of Southern Mississippi where he earned his Bachelor of Science in General Science with a minor in Secondary Education. He also graduated from USM with both his Masters in Chemistry and his Doctorate of Education in Science Education respectively.
Barnes served at Pearl River Community College from 1962 until his retirement in 1999. He was a science instructor at PRCC and took on the role as Chairman of the Science Department. During that time he committed himself to the betterment of his students while pursuing a variety of educational and community endeavors.
“I can’t even describe it,” Barnes said when asked what the dedication meant to him. “You do what you can and this is the result of it. The main achievement is seeing the students everywhere I go. I get to meet former students out working and many of them are here today.”
The $6 million project included renovating the current science and math building as well as the new 11,000-square foot annex. The construction was finished in time for students to utilize in August 2020. The new James Barnes STEM Center houses state-of-the-art labs for Pearl River’s Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, A&P and Microbiology classes. Renovations to the existing science building included the addition of new LED lighting, new ceilings, doors and elevator to access the second floor of the building.
Barnes has continuously been involved in his community through various projects. He was a charter member of the Poplarville Lions Club, served as president of the organization and was on the Board of Directors for 10 years. He served on the Board of directors for the Pearl River Valley Country Club as well as the President of the board from 1977-78.
Barnes served as an Alderman for the City of Poplarville and was elected Mayor in 1985. He also helped prepare and submit a Community Development Block Grant for 1.61 million. The grant was funded by the Governor’s office in 1985.
He represented the City of Poplarville as a member of the Board of Directors for the Pearl River County Development Association from 1979-83 and served as Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1984. Barnes is a former member and officer in the Chamber of Commerce, former Chairman of North Pearl River County Red Cross Blood Band and Rotary Club member.
Barnes served on visiting reaccreditation teams in the Southeastern United States through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. He also served on the Steering Committee for PRCC’s self-study for reaccreditation. He assisted in the preparation of the Title II grant application for Pearl River that was initially funded the first year and was extended for two additional years. Barnes also developed and implemented a variety of laboratory and non-laboratory courses. He was a part of many professional organizations including the National Science Teachers Association, Mississippi Science Teachers Association and the Mississippi Academy of Sciences. He attended seminars and workshops related to science education as an observer and participant on national, state and local levels.Barnes also was a part of the Curriculum Committee, Recruiting Committee and Homecoming Committee at Pearl River.
He was selected as an outstanding educator of America in 1971 and was Alumnus of the Year for PRCC in 1968. He was chosen as one of the 15 nationwide to attend a Computers in the Laboratory Workshop in 1982. He was selected as Pearl River Community College’s faculty representative for Higher Education Appreciation day in 1989. Barnes was also featured in Picayune Item Sunday magazine Profile in 1988.
Barnes was approached by many former students during the celebration and was thanked for the support and encouragement he gave them during their time at Pearl River. Chairman of the PRCC Board of Trustees Tony Waits spoke about his experience being taught and mentored by Barnes.
“If Dr. Barnes said you were ready to go into pharmacy school, you got accepted to pharmacy school,” Waits said. “He had that reputation with the school of pharmacy and all his fellow educators. He was really good at meeting the students where they were and making Chemistry understandable. He had a way of making Chemistry possible for people who otherwise might not have understood the concept. He was also encouraging you along the way that all of it was possible.
“He was always encouraging his students and seeking a way to get them to study hard and at the same time embrace life and enjoy it.”
During the dedication Barnes told stories of his time at Pearl River including humorous classroom moments and student success stories. He also talked about how ingrained Pearl River was in his life and career.
“It’s always been Pearl River for us,” Barnes said. “From the time I was old enough to know about it we were coming here. Our kids were coming here. Pearl River is number one.”
Barnes is still living in Poplarville with his wife Ramona; June 3 will mark their 60th wedding anniversary. Their children include Mike Barnes, a paramedic for AAA and Kimberly Saucier, an administrator for the Hancock County School District. Mike has a daughter, Bri Bounds, who is a registered nurse from PRCC; Her and her husband, Tanner, have a 3-month-old son, Conner. Mike’s son, Daulton, is currently a senior in high school. Kimberly and her husband, Brock, have one daughter, Savannah, who is a math teacher in the Hancock County School District.