To celebrate and honor the longtime contributions of its former library services director, the University of Mount Olive has named an atrium in honor of Gary Fenton Barefoot.
The atrium, a second-floor glass encased space, connects Moye Library and the Communications Building.
Dedication of that space in Barefoot’s honor is “well deserved and long overdue,” UMO President H. Edward Croom said in a November dedication ceremony.
“Today, we honor Gary Barefoot, who has been a part of the fabric of this institution most of those years,” Croom said. “We are delighted to name our atrium in his honor thereby serving as a permanent reminder of his dedication, his wisdom and his connections.”
The plaque is a gift from Robert’s Grove Original Free Will Baptist Church, along with friends and family of Barefoot.
Barefoot said his friends, family, church family, his good health, and his blessings in life are all gifts from God.
“Instead of having any feelings of entitlement, to all these blessings I have tried to respond with genuine gratitude,” he said.
Barefoot’s connection to UMO began in the 1950s when he enrolled in Mount Olive Junior College, earning his associate degree in 1959. He later earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Barefoot began working as a public school librarian, then returned to Mount Olive College in 1965 as head librarian of Moye Library. During his time as head librarian, Barefoot oversaw the transition of the library from two rooms on the original campus on North Breazeale Avenue to its current location. Under his guidance, book volumes grew from 8,000 to more than 60,000.
A native of Spivey’s Corner, Barefoot is known for his work on the Free Will Baptist Historical Collection, housed in the Communications Building at UMO. It is the largest known repository of Original Free Will Baptist materials.
Barefoot retired from the university in 1999 after 34 years as director of library services.
Barefoot, 82, continues to work part time at UMO as curator of the Free Will Baptist Historical Collection and the University Archives.