Hank Barnette and his wife, Joanne, speak during an event at West Virginia University. (Courtesy photo)
MORGANTOWN -- In 1956, Hank Barnette left Morgantown and went to New York City before boarding the Queen Mary for England.
He had been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study law for a year at the University of Manchester. Just graduated from West Virginia University where he was student body president, and about to take a turn with U.S. Army Intelligence, he had never been out of the country.
In Manchester, he was surrounded by English law students who were undergraduates and older exchange students from France, Iran, India and Yugoslavia in his graduate program of international law.
The first day he met with the other international students, they one by one described their latest book or paper to the professor. Feeling embarrassed that his accomplishments didn't seem equal to his peers, he said, when it was his turn in the circle, "I'm Hank Barnette. I'm from West Virginia."
Now, thanks in part to Barnette, there will be many more students gathered in Manchester telling their classmates that they are from West Virginia.
Barnette, who went to Yale Law School and Harvard Business School and rose to head Bethlehem Steel Corp., has created the Barnette Scholars program, which offers a supplement to students who study a semester in the University of Manchester's law program.
Barnette was also part of the story of the program's establishment. When Joe Hagan, director of the International Studies program at WVU, got an e-mail about Manchester's pre-law program for U.S. students, he remembered Barnette's Fulbright experience. Hagan, Barnette and his wife, Joanne, ultimately traveled to Manchester earlier this year and finalized the current opportunities for WVU students there.
Barnette said he was especially grateful to Geraint Howells and Mark Reiff of Manchester in helping to establish the program.
Manchester recently established a Pre-law Pathway for U.S. Students, which allows students from WVU and other institutions to attend classes at all levels of the law program. In the spring, WVU and the University of Manchester formed an agreement and the Barnette Scholars program was born.
The Barnettes wanted to support the institutions that had supported them. Hank always wanted to give back to Manchester as he has to WVU, and this partnership allows him connect both of his institutions and send West Virginia students like him along the path he took.
The first two Barnette Scholars will study in England this spring.
Just as WVU President Irvin Stewart and political science professors Carl Frasure and John Williams prompted Barnette to travel abroad, it was Jack Harless' adviser Hagan who told him the Manchester program is one of the best in Europe.
"My interest in going to law school is what really drove me to participate in this," Harless said. "It will definitely give me a leg up in getting into law school."
Harless, of Charleston, has known he wanted to be a lawyer for a long time. Now he'll not only get to take classes on torts, contracts and international law, but will get to see how European and English law differ from U.S. law and how the learning experience differs.
The title Barnette Scholar at the University of Manchester will also add a unique qualification to his resume.
Kiley Sanders, like Harless, is an international studies major who intends to go to law school. Sanders, of Pittsburgh, Pa., can't remember a time when she wasn't interested in international issues and sees becoming a lawyer as a path to make changes in global relations.
"I felt like I'd be able to help more in a legal way," she said.
Both are looking for an international perspective, the experience of meeting other students and getting an early understanding of the law.
Hagan, the Barnette Professor in Political Science, said the partnership with the University of Manchester and the Barnette Scholars program is part of WVU's mission to increase the University's connection with the larger world.
"This is an opportunity to go to a top British university," he said. "It's an opportunity to internationalize your study of law."
Though it's an opportune program for future law students, it's also ideal for students who seek an international view of life to use in diplomacy, international organizations and government.
One student from WVU is studying at Manchester now, and three, including Harless and Sanders, will attend in the spring. Hagan said this is the largest contingent from a U.S. university to study as part of Manchester's pathway program.
To participate in the semester abroad, students must not only meet the University of Manchester's rigorous admissions requirements, but they must have taken three advanced political science/pre-law classes at WVU.
The Barnette Scholars program provides high-achieving WVU students, particularly those from West Virginia, with a stipend to help defray tuition expenses at the University of Manchester. Five students a year may be awarded the scholarship for one semester of study.
Barnette fondly recalls his time living with a British family and joining the basketball team where he became team captain and later made the All England team. He learned Britishisms like calling student housing "digs" and how closely the United Kingdom and the U.S. were aligned politically.
"The experience of living abroad is more important today than it was during the time I was there," he said. "It really provides us a basis for a longer term career, whatever that career might be, whether in government, the private sector, the non-governmental sector, teaching.
"The international experience differentiates the student with that qualification."
During his 33-year career at Bethlehem Steel, Barnette served in many capacities, including chairman and chief executive officer. He later practiced corporate and international law with the Washington, D.C., firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher and Flom, LLP.
Barnette is a member of the WVU Academy of Distinguished Alumni and the WVU Business Hall of Fame, and was honored as Most Loyal Alumni Mountaineer.