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Ohio’s New State President Pays Forward

For 45 years, Dr. Michael Barnhart helped advance the educational needs of school children and young adults as an educator and administrator. Barnhart, a Centerville resident, will now apply those leadership skills to advocate on behalf of seniors as the new state president for AARP Ohio.
See Also: Find a Volunteer Opportunity Near You: Create the Good

Barnhart is uniquely driven to honor those who helped him during difficult circumstances in his own childhood. “My life was shaped to a large degree by the kindness, helpfulness, caring and the giving of others and from that, I believe, comes my motivation to serve others,” he says of his difficult childhood. “I could not pay back anyone for the many kindnesses they granted me, so I pay it forward.”

Barnhart’s mother died when he was three, and his father was unfit to care for him and six siblings, so his grandparents gave their remaining 10 years of life to raise the family. But as a teenager, Barnhart relied heavily on siblings and friends to move forward.

“Some clothed me, others protected me, the church influenced me, and teachers encouraged me to live up to my potential,” he adds. “The Home-School Club gave me a scholarship and a friends’ father got me a job and off to college I went.”

Barnhart said, “Without fully understanding the underlying motivation, I choose to become a teacher so as to help other young people as I had been helped. Throughout my career, even as I changed roles from school administration to college teaching, the motivation remained: use the position to release the potential in others as others had assisted me to release my potential.”

Barnhart ascended to principal and then superintendent of Troy City Schools in his career. He also is a past State Administrator of the Year, by the Ohio Education Libraries and Media Association, and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Miami University.

He sought the highest volunteer position in Ohio to ensure that current and future generations of retirees can age with dignity and security. And Barnhart’s selection couldn’t come at a more appropriate time: this spring AARP will embark on an extensive national effort to listen and interact with seniors about the challenges facing critical programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, to find ideas and possibly develop recommendations. In Ohio, this will include more than 60 conversations.

“Mike is a tremendous listener,” said Jane Taylor, AARP Ohio state director. “It’s clear that his years as an educator and school leader have honed his natural skills. And at this critical juncture, AARP members want to be heard and understood.”

Barnhart joined AARP Ohio in 2008 and has advocated for the needs of fellow seniors in Dayton, helping the non-partisan organization bring voice to those in the region who are in need. He has been vital in communicating federal and state issues with local public officers, residents and others.

In 2010, he also led workshops throughout the state where he guided mostly jobless individuals 50+ to sort through their experiences and skills to create a personal brand that would better position them to locate employment.

A gentle nudge, a blunt observation and a kind word were hallmarks of Barnhart’s personal branding workshops. And the workshops were popular — drawing standing room only crowds and telephone requests for reserved seating.

Barnhart and his wife of more than 44 years, Dixie, share a commitment to church and community. Barnhart began leading bible classes for seniors four decades ago and his commitment has carried forward all of these years. Examples of his civic involvement include service as a founding member of the Tipp City Kiwanis Club, past board member of the Troy Chamber of Commerce and Advisory Board member for Nyack College Miami Valley.

In addition to his years in public education, Barnhart taught educational leadership and teacher education courses at Wittenberg University and Wright State University, where he directed student services and professional field experiences for the College of Education and Human Services. He also coordinated assessments of entry-year teacher licensure for the Ohio Department of Education from 2001 until he retired in 2008.

Dr. Barnhart also holds a Ph. D from Miami University, a master’s degree in secondary education from Wright State University, a bachelor’s degree in history and government from Ohio University and studied economics at the University of Santa Clara under a National Science Foundation grant.

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