Dr. James B. Hemby, Jr., President Emeritus of Barton College
Barton College lost one of her favorite sons on Thursday, November 16, 2017, with the passing of Dr. James B. Hemby, Jr., President Emeritus of Barton College, at the age of 83. He leaves behind a legacy of service and leadership that can be matched by few in the College’s 115-year history. He was a gentleman of strong spirit and character, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and a faithful and dedicated servant of Barton College.
Having served the College during a 40-year tenure under both its names of Atlantic Christian and Barton College, Dr. Hemby held a host of roles, but history recalls most vividly his appointments as a respected Professor and Chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages, Provost of the College, and President of the College.
Service and Visitation Arrangements —
A service celebrating the life of Dr. James B. Hemby, Jr., will be held on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, at 1 p.m. at the First Christian Church in Wilson. Immediately following the service, there will be a time for visiting with the family in the Fellowship Hall located in the Education Building next to the sanctuary. The First Christian Church is located at the corner of Tarboro and Vance streets, and parking is available in the parking lot on Vance Street across from the sanctuary.
His Life Remembered —
Known for his forthright candor and his ability to tell a great story, nothing animated Dr. Hemby more than fundraising for Barton College. He optimized each and every opportunity to invite others to invest in his alma mater. His enthusiasm manifested itself in the success of the capital campaigns he led.
Dr. Hemby’s tenure as President was marked by a focus on the long-range future of the institution. This focus was reflected by his commitment to fiscal stability through aggressive fundraising and expansion of the endowment; educating students to prosper as citizens of the global community of the 21st Century through the Global Focus international emphasis; expansion of student recruitment boundaries and definition of the College’s liberal arts mission that necessitated changing the name of the institution; and by his commitment to extracting the highest return from Barton’s facilities and grounds through increased attention to construction, renovation, landscaping, and removal of outdated buildings. The campus evolved to become a more attractive pedestrian landscape with older buildings razed that were beyond repair, and new facilities built to enhance the College’s academic programming and to bring a stronger identity to Barton’s campus.
Dr. Hemby was a 1955 Atlantic Christian graduate, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, and Religion and Philosophy, and he was the first alumnus to be named President of the College. A campus leader as a student, Dr. Hemby received the Faculty Cup (now the Coggins Cup), which is presented annually to the graduating senior voted to be the best overall student by the faculty and staff. He also earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University, and master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Texas Christian University.
He served on a variety of professional and civic boards and councils, and received numerous recognitions and honors in past decades, including being named a Lilly Foundation Visiting Scholar at Duke University, a Fulbright Scholar, and an American Council on Education Fellow in Academic Administration. He also served as chair of the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities Board of Directors (NCICU).
The College’s Alumni Board honored Dr. Hemby as the 1989 Alumnus of the Year. And, in 2002, Dr. Hemby was honored with the Bulldog Club Award, recognizing his steadfast commitment and loyalty to the Barton Bulldogs for more than 40 years. Also in 2002, Dr. Hemby was recognized by the Wilson Sertoma Club with the prestigious Service to Mankind Award. The former Governor James B. Hunt, Jr., was the keynote speaker, and he chose that opportunity to acknowledge attributes that he most admired in Jim Hemby, which included Dr. Hemby’s commitment to excellence in education and to young people, his devotion to his work and the College, his vision and courage to make change for the greater good, and his expansion of service to mankind.
During Barton College 2003 Commencement Exercises, Judge Sidney S. Eagles, Jr., then chair of the Barton College Board of Trustees, presented Dr. Hemby with the recognition of President Emeritus. Dr. Hemby was lauded for his many contributions to and accomplishments for Barton College during his 40 years of service, including a 20-year tenure as President. A historical moment for the campus, this is the first and only such honor, to-date, bestowed upon a Barton College president.
Following retirement, Dr. Hemby continued to be active in the community. He served on the Board for the Methodist Home for Children and the Raleigh Radio Reading Service Board. And, he also served as a consumer member of the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners.
In 2015, he was inducted into the Barton College Athletic Hall of Fame. A lifelong passion for intercollegiate athletics fueled his steadfast enthusiasm throughout his professional career. Whether he wore presidential stripes on the sleeves of his academic regalia or stripes on his sports’ official uniform shirt, he set the bar high for integrity. Never settling for mediocrity in the classroom, the boardroom, or on the fields or courts, he challenged, encouraged, and inspired all to reach their full potential. For more than 20 years, he served as a sports official (umpire, official, and referee) for baseball, basketball, and football. He held roles as President of the Carolinas Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (CIAC) and as a member of the NAIA Council of Presidents. During his last year as President of the College, Barton won its first of three consecutive Joby Hawn Cups, the conference all-sports award. During his tenure as President, the College’s athletic program also changed its national affiliation from NAIA to NCAA DII. The athletics program added teams in women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s cross country. And, under his presidency, Barton’s athletics program was able to add key athletic personnel to the program and enhance its athletic facilities with a new tennis court complex, a newly constructed Kennedy Recreation and Intramural Center, new athletic training rooms, and a more fully developed Athletic Complex for baseball, soccer, and softball.
Following his retirement from Barton, Dr. Hemby and his wife, Joan (also an alumna), have made their home in Raleigh. They have been the proud parents of three sons, James B. Hemby III (wife: Holli), Scott Edwards Hemby (wife: Christy), and Thomas Simmen Hemby “Tom” (wife: Sheila, also an alumna), and the devoted grandparents of five granddaughters: Tristan, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Catherine, and Lillie.
The community of Barton College is thankful for the life of Dr. James B. Hemby, Jr., and all the gifts and talents he so willingly shared with this campus. His zeal for life, his charismatic smile, and the mischievous glint in his eye will remain treasured memories of our dear friend, and etched in our hearts will be his examples of honesty, integrity, and devotion that were abundant throughout his leadership on the Barton College campus. Our lives, once blessed by his presence, are now enriched by his memory.