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Higher Education
The University of Texas at Austin
News Release
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Retired Exec VP of Blue Bell Creameries to Receive UT Distinguished Alumnus Award

AUSTIN, Texas - John W. Barnhill, Jr., the former executive vice president of Blue Bell Creameries, will receive the Texas Exes Distinguished Alumnus Award at a red-carpet ceremony to be held on The University of Texas at Austin campus on Friday, Oct. 14.  The award, created in 1958, recognizes annually up to six graduates or former students of The University of Texas at Austin who have distinguished themselves professionally and through service to the university. The Distinguished Alumnus Award is the highest award given by the Texas Exes.

Barnhill received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the university in 1959. He joined Blue Bell Creameries in 1960 as its sole Houston salesman and worked his way up to executive vice president, retiring in 2000. During his 40 years at Blue Bell, the company rose from a small country creamery to the third-best-selling brand of ice cream in the United States, thanks in significant part to Barnhill's decisions to play up the company's hometown roots.

Barnhill also helped found two local banks in Brenham. He still serves as chairman of the board for the Bank of Brenham and as president of The John Barnhill Company, LP, which operates two bed and breakfast inns in Brenham and several rental properties in Brenham and Atlanta, Texas. His long list of civic involvements includes having served as trustee for the Brenham School Board, the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum Foundation.

Over many years, Barnhill has actively served the university that provided his education. In 2003, he was appointed to the UT System Board of Regents for a six-year term. He served as the president of the Texas Exes from 1993-1994 and is now a member of the Texas Exes Board of Directors. He has also been a member of the University's Commission of 125, the Men's Intercollegiate Athletics Council, and the College of Communication Advisory Council. In addition, he is a life member of the UT Austin Development Board and the Longhorn Foundation Advisory Council.

An avid supporter of higher education, Barnhill has established endowed presidential scholarships with UT's College of Education, McCombs School of Business and Men's Athletics in the names of his three children, all of whom attended The University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife, Jane Cook Barnhill, have also established numerous endowments and scholarships with other campus entities, including the Texas Exes.

In addition to Barnhill, the five other recipients of this year's Distinguished Alumnus Awards are I. Jon Brumley, chairman & CEO, Bounty Investments, LP; Jane Chesnutt, a civic leader and former editor-in-chief of Woman's Day magazine; James R. Huffines, president and COO of PlainsCapital Corporation and former chairman of the UT Board of Regents;  Jodie L. Jiles, managing director of RBC Capital Markets, LLC; and the Honorable Pamela P. Willeford, the former US Ambassador to Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein.

About the Texas Exes: The Texas Exes is one of the strongest and most active alumni associations in the country. Established in 1885, the organization serves to promote, protect and preserve The University of Texas at Austin through scholarships, teaching and advising awards, advocacy efforts, student relations and alumni outreach. The Texas Exes strives to connect its 96,000 members to each other and to the University through communication, local chapter engagement, events, career counseling, travel and advocacy in support of higher education. Learn more about the Texas Exes or become a member today by visiting

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