By Victoria Bauer, Social Media Director


The Marguerite Ross Barnett Memorial Plaza, adjacent to Express Script Halls and the Social Sciences and Business Building on the North Campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, was conceived and constructed in 2012. Twenty years after her passing, Marguerite Ross Barnett is remembered as the first female and black chancellor of the university.

Barnett served as the eighth chancellor of UMSL for four years before she became the president of the University of Houston in Texas. Her accomplished career extended beyond her stay in St. Louis and Houston. Many remember her as a dynamic person and a visionary, who was certainly a woman of firsts.

Born in Charlottesville, VA, Barnett went to Antioch College, and got her Master of Science and her doctoral degrees in political science at the University of Chicago. She was a professor at her alma mater as well as at Princeton University, Howard University, and Columbia University. Later, she geared her career towards university administration.

A New York Times article notes that she “urged that urban universities play a dominant role in spurring economic growth and solving social problems in the same way that land-grant colleges of a century ago did in developing America’s agricultural economy.”

By the time Barnett arrived at UMSL, she faced many challenges in the university, including a tight budget and the need for fundraising. Maureen Zegel of the UMSL Daily contends that Barnett’s mindset at the time was to transform the university, and she did so through her leadership skills and her “record-breaking fundraising for buildings and scholarships, expanding academic programs and connecting the metropolitan campus with surrounding communities to solve problems.”

Zegel remembers that she not only connected corporate St. Louis to the University, but she increased support for the University’s Partnership for Progress and the UMSL Bridge Program, a pre-collegiate program that combats the common obstacles that prevent people from attending university.

Two years before her death, Barnett moved on to work as President of the University of Houston, where she established fundraising records at the university level. However, Barnett’s lasting accomplishments remain present at UMSL. The Memorial Plaza is a commemoration of her drive and dedication to UMSL as chancellor. In addition, the Marguerite Ross Barnett Memorial Scholarship is open to all Missouri residents who are at least 18 years old, enrolled as part-time students in Missouri schools, and are employed for at least 20 hours per week. The deadline for the next scholarship application cycle is in April 2017  More scholarship information is available at