When Delene Barnes was a student at Lander University, then Lander College, in the 1930s, there were stables on campus, and students could hone their horseback riding skills. Due to hard economic times, Mrs. Barnes had to leave Lander before she earned her college degree. Then in the 1950s, Lander closed its stables.
So when Mrs. Barnes' husband, James M. Barnes of Summerville, learned from a photo on Lander's Web site, that the school had resurrected its equestrian program in 2000, he knew he'd found a way to honor his late wife's memory.
He would establish a fund to support Lander's equestrian program and to provide scholarships for deserving members of the team. Thus was born the Delene B. Barnes Equestrian Fund at Lander University.
Established as a club sport, the equestrian team is not part of the university's NCAA program. Essentially, the riders, with a small stipend from the university, fund their own way. Now, with the $200,000 bequest from the estate of Jim Barnes, members of the equestrian team are reaping the benefits of Mrs. Barnes' love for Lander and her love for horses.
Dr. Barbara Freese, Lander nursing professor and faculty adviser to the equestrian team, commenting on the gift to a program that grew out of several students' interest in horses, said, "Mr. Barnes has established a living tribute to Mrs. Barnes and her love for horses through his bequest to the Lander equestrian team. His generous gift will help develop an equestrian team that is a tribute to the university."
A portrait of Mrs. Barnes by South Carolina artist Susan Richardson Dion of Summerville was presented to Lander President Daniel Ball on behalf of Mrs. Barnes' husband. The painting will be hung at the university adjacent to a plaque that will carry the names of the Barnes Scholarship recipients.
Thomas Dion, husband of the artist and a close friend of the Barnes, said the couple raised and showed horses and gave riding lessons on their farm.
"Sharing their love of horses with others was their life," said Dion, "so it is certainly fitting that that love will continue to grow in the young women who will benefit from the Barnes' support of Lander's equestrian program.
"We had no idea that a photo of one our equestrian students on the Lander Web site would result in a gift of almost a quarter million dollars," said Eleanor Teal, vice president for University Advancement. "We are pleased that the equestrian program is receiving recognition and are especially gratified to have worked with Susan and with Thomas, who served as executor for the Barnes estate. I feel that they share in our pride at what the Barnes Fund will mean to Lander students for generations to come."
Since its rebirth, the Lander equestrian team, housed at Cricket Hollow Stables and under the guidance of Coach Harriet Morton has competed in the International Horse Show Association. Lander students have ridden in zone and regional competitions against such schools as Auburn University, Clemson University, the University of Georgia and the University of South Carolina.
For information on the equestrian scholarship, contact University Advancement at 864-388-8350 or visit www.lander.edu.