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Late MSU alumnus, veteran continues to serve with Col. William E. Barber Scholarship

Col. William Barber PictureFor decades, the late Col. William E. Barber (64) served his country proudly and honorably in significant roles during multiple military campaigns like World War II and the Korean War. In 1995, a group of veterans from Morgan County, organized by Resvie Wheeler, established the Col. William E. Barber Scholarship with the MSU Foundation to honor his service. Now, thanks to a generous gift from his daughter, Sharon Barber, the Col. William E. Barber Scholarship will be endowed at the $25,000 level. The proceeds from this endowment will benefit future generations of MSU students from Eastern Kentucky and further cement his legacy of service.      

Born Nov. 30, 1919, in Dehart, Kentucky, Barber grew up on a farm. He was a graduate of Morgan County High School in West Liberty and attended Morehead State University for two years before joining the Marine Corps. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940.   

When the U.S. joined World War II, he was sent to the Pacific, serving in the Battle of Iwo Jima and earning the Silver Star and Purple Heart Medals. Serving in the Korean War, he reached the rank of captain and was the commanding officer of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines in the 1st Marine Division. Barber was one of the "Chosin Few" who served in the hard-fought Battle of Chosin Reservoir and was one of 17 men who earned the Medal of Honor for his actions at Chosin. On Aug. 20, 1952, Barber, then a major, received the honor from President Harry S. Truman in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. The National Museum of the Marine Corps erected a Chosin Few Battle Monument to honor those who fought there. 

Barber later returned to MSU to complete his degree and graduated in 1964. He went on to serve as a psychological operations officer in Vietnam before retiring as a colonel in 1970. After he died on April 19, 2002, at his home in Irvine, California, he was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery.  

In 2019, Sharon Barber reached out to the MSU Foundation and pledged her support to further fund the scholarship to endowment level. She wanted to ensure the scholarship fund would remain a resource to MSU students for years to come and indefinitely honor of her father.  

"As many places as he lived in his life, Kentucky was always home to my dad," Sharon said. "It is fitting that there is an ongoing scholarship in his name in an area that was so important to him and the large extended Barber family."  

Scholarship recipients must be incoming freshmen and graduates from Morgan County High School who have maintained a cumulative high school GPA of 3.0 or above and a minimum ACT composite score of 20 or higher. The scholarship is a one-time, nonrenewable award and a new award is presented annually to a member of the Morgan County High School graduating class.  

A selection committee comprised of three Morgan County residents including a representative of the public school system, a representative of Veterans of Foreign Wars, and a representative who is actively involved in community and civic organizations in the Morgan County area selects the recipient each year. The MSU Foundation works with representatives from Morgan County High School to organize the committee annually. 

Students interested in applying to this scholarship, along with other privately funded scholarships managed by the MSU Foundation, should visit the online scholarship application at    

For more information on this scholarship, or to establish your own, contact MSU's Office of Alumni Relations and Development at 606-783-2033, email or visit   

To learn more about Col. Barber’s military service, visit

Photo: The late Col. William E. Barber (64), MSU alumnus, decorated military veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, has had the Col. William E. Barber Scholarship Endowment established in his honor.