Michael A. Barnes, professor emeritus of dairy science in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, passed away on October 10, 2021, at the age of 79.
A member of the Virginia Tech community since 1981, Barnes made a lasting impact on his colleagues and the thousands of students he supported and mentored throughout his career.
Barnes was a highly-regarded professor, teaching numerous undergraduate courses and serving as both an academic advisor and the departmental academic coordinator and longtime advisor to the college’s Dairy Club. He also coached the award-winning undergraduate Dairy Cattle Judging Team, which won four national championships.
His unparalleled commitment to excellence, unrelenting honesty, candor, humility, and great sense of humor made him popular among the more than 2,000 students he impacted. In four decades of dairy cattle judging team coaching, Barnes instilled in his teams not only the ability to evaluate animals, but also to develop strong decision-making and communication skills.
Barnes’ research focus was reproductive physiology and endocrinology. Committed to teaching excellence, he was the recipient of numerous awards, including the William E. Wine Award, the Alumni Award for Excellence in Academic Advising, and the American Dairy Science Association’s Purina Teaching Award.
A graduate of the University of Connecticut, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and Ph.D., Barnes received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In 2016, after 35 years of distinguished service to Virginia Tech, Barnes was conferred the title of “professor emeritus” by the board of visitors.
Prior to his service to Virginia Tech, Barnes served his country during the Vietnam War as a member of the Marine Corps. Upon returning home, he started a family, completed his education, and helped run a dairy farm. From 1978 to 1981, he taught at Clemson University as an assistant professor in the dairy science department.
Barnes is survived by his wife, Katharine Knowlton, a professor of dairy science; his brother, Peter, and his spouse, Linda; his son, Mike, and his spouse, Dianna; and two grandchildren, Michael and Madison.
Barnes’ family described him as a “tough, self-disciplined, up-by-the-bootstraps, but also encouraging” individual.
“At every turn, Mike told us to ‘do good.’ We will because he showed us what that meant,” his obituary read.