TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Jasper businessman and University of Alabama trustee emeritus John T. Oliver Jr. will be honored at the rededication of historic Barnard Hall on the UA campus as Oliver-Barnard Hall. Ribbon cutting ceremonies will be held Saturday, Aug. 26, at 9:30 a.m. at the historic building on UA’s main Quadrangle.
Oliver-Barnard has undergone a $1 million renovation to serve as one of two Academic Houses in UA’s Blount Undergraduate Initiative in the College of Arts and Sciences. Funds for the project were provided by friends and family of Oliver to honor him.
Montgomery businessman Winton “Red” Blount will be a special guest at the ceremony. The Blount Undergraduate Initiative is named in honor of Blount and his wife, Carolyn, who established the special program with a $7 million endowment.
Oliver-Barnard will house the Blount program’s sophomore, junior, and senior activities, serving as the site for Initiative seminars, lectures, and gatherings. The building contains seminar rooms, a computer lab, study spaces, and a large common area.
Inaugurated last year, the Blount Undergraduate Initiative is a four-year liberal arts program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Designed to create an intensive learning environment for highly motivated students, the program emphasizes learning as a way of life, the development of strong critical thinking skills, the ability to integrate knowledge, and the use of knowledge for public good. Freshmen are accepted into the program each year by application and interview.
“We are grateful to John Oliver’s family and friends for restoring this building to such fine academic use. The first class of sophomores in this landmark program enter this fall not only an Academic House but also their academic home in the College of Arts and Sciences. Here sophomore Blount Scholars will continue the strong academic relationships they began last year with faculty and peers. Liberal arts education is at the heart of the university education. It is appropriate that this program be housed at the physical heart of the University campus, in a landmark building. It signifies the University’s longstanding tradition of high-quality university education, its commitment to build on that unqualified strength in the coming century, and, most appropriately, it honors John Oliver’s service to The University of Alabama,” said Robert F. Olin, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“The University of Alabama has made major advances in its teaching, research, and service to our communities thanks to the countless contributions of John T. Oliver Jr., as a trustee for 28 years, an alumnus, and a loyal friend. We are privileged to recognize his unique contributions as an advisor to the University and his exemplary commitment to our faculty and students by dedicating this important and historic building the John T. Oliver Jr.-Barnard Hall. This building, which bears his name, stands as a beautiful reminder to us all of John Oliver’s high standards of education and personal integrity,” said UA President Andrew Sorensen.
Oliver, who received his bachelor’s and law degrees from UA, served as a member of The University of Alabama System’s Board of Trustees from 1971-1999. During that time he played a key role, as search committee chair or member, in selecting four chancellors of the University of Alabama System, three UA presidents, four presidents at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and three presidents at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. In addition, he served as president pro tem of the board for three years in the 1980s and served as interim chancellor from 1996-1997. Oliver has also served the University as vice president and chairman of the alumni fund for the National Alumni Association.
Oliver is chairman of the First National Bank of Jasper’s board of directors, a post he has held since 1955. He is also a member of the board of directors of First Commercial Bank in Birmingham. He is director emeritus of the board of directors of Synovus Financial Corp. and, in 1998, he was inducted into the Alabama Business Hall of Fame at UA.
Built in 1889 and designed by Montgomery architect W.A. Crossland, Oliver-Barnard was erected during an intense period of campus construction and modernization prior to the turn of the century. It originally housed UA’s astronomy and engineering departments and gymnasium. It was named for University professor and scientist F.A.P. Barnard who taught at UA from 1838-1854 and was one of the University’s most distinguished 19th century faculty members. He established the University’s Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa and designed and oversaw construction of the University’s astronomical observatory. Barnard left the South in 1861 and became president of what is now Columbia University in 1865.
Oliver Barnard is one of three buildings on UA’s campus designated for the Blount Undergraduate Initiative. A new $8 million Living Learning Center will open this fall to house the Blount Initiative’s freshman residential program. Historic Tuomey Hall, a sister structure to Oliver-Barnard Hall, will undergo renovation as the second Academic House in the program later this year.
The College of Arts and Sciences is the University’s largest division and the state’s largest liberal arts college with some 6,000 students and 320 faculty members.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.