Perry names new UT regent

Former Blue Bell executive is governor's pick to fill vacancy on board

By Sharon Jayson
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Wednesday, November 19, 2003

A journalist turned Blue Bell ice cream executive was named Wednesday as Gov. Rick Perry's pick for the University of Texas System Board of Regents.

John W. Barnhill Jr., 67, will fill the spot previously held by the late Dub Riter of Tyler, the governor's office said Wednesday. Riter's term had expired in February, but he continued to serve on the nine-member panel awaiting the governor's choice for his replacement. Riter died in September.

Barnhill's appointment requires state Senate confirmation, but he can serve while awaiting confirmation when the Legislature convenes next. His term expires in February 2009.

Barnhill worked for almost 40 years for Blue Bell Creameries in his native Brenham, starting out as a salesman and working his way up to executive vice president and general sales manager. He retired from the company three years ago but he continues to serve on the board. He is also chairman of the board of the Bank of Brenham.

Several UT regents have financial backgrounds. Barnhill says he'll bring a new perspective.

"I would hope that I'm fairly well-rounded, particularly because of my background in journalism," he said Wednesday. "I am a guy who has certainly followed everything to do with the university system, but in terms of knowing what a regent does, I'm going to learn."

Barnhill graduated from UT-Austin in 1959 with a journalism degree. He worked for a now-defunct Houston newspaper for about 18 months before joining the ice cream company.

Charles Miller, UT System regents chairman, said Barnhill's ice cream connection created a bit of excitement when board members learned of the appointment during a closed session Wednesday.

"That's just a good Texas symbol for us," Miller said. "We all love Blue Bell and Brenham."

Barnhill has served as president of the Texas Exes alumni group. He has also been chairman of the UT System Chancellor's Council Executive Committee and he was a member of the Men's Intercollegiate Athletics Council. He is a lifetime member of the UT-Austin Development Board and the Longhorn Foundation Advisory Council.

sjayson@statesman.com; 445-3620