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John W. Barnhill, Jr. - Blue Bell Creameries, Inc. Endowed Presidential Scholarship

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John W. Barnhill, Jr., the former executive vice president of Blue Bell Creameries, received the Texas Exes Distinguished Alumnus Award at a red-carpet ceremony 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.


John 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.

John W. Barnhill, Jr.
John W. Barnhill, Jr.

Barnhill, using his journalism background, played up Blue Bell Creameries’ hometown roots and improved upon its slogan, “Eat and enjoy BB ice cream. It’s creamy and delicious.” Barnhill said, “It did not take much imagination to improve on that by spelling out the company name and emphasizing our made-in-the-country background.”

Barnhill also helped found two local banks in Brenham. He 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.

The John W. Barnhill, Jr. - Blue Bell Creameries, Inc. Endowed Presidential Scholarship was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System on April 8, 1987, for the benefit of the College of Communication. Gift funds were provided by Blue Bell Creameries L.P. of Brenham, Texas. The endowment honors Mr. John W. Barnhill, Jr. of Brenham, Texas, a 1959 graduate of The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication.

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