Dean O. Barnum creates trust to benefit Willard Library

Dean O. Barnum, a philanthropist and longtime supporter of Battle Creek, established the Barnum-Willard Trust for the benefit of Willard Library.

Mr. Barnum had a vast collection of books and enjoyed doing The New York Times crossword puzzles in ink.

Mr. Barnum designed the Barnum-Willard Trust to fund materials/collections, public programming, facilities, and technology at Willard Library. The Barnum-Willard Trust was funded at Mr. Barnum’s death on Aug. 28, 2020, at age 87. 

He taught history and political science at Kellogg Community College for many years.

Mr. Barnum’s gift of $1 million to the Barnum-Willard Trust is the largest gift in the library’s 126-year history.

“Mr. Barnum’s gift is a tremendous act of generosity and philanthropy, and will make a difference in local residents’ lives for generations,” Library Director Cathy Lucas said.

Mr. Barnum’s estate also made gifts to Kellogg Community College and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs of just over $1 million each.

The Trust, which was established by Mr. Barnum for the sole benefit of Willard Library, will be administered by an independent Trustee. The Trustee will make distributions from the Trust upon request of the Library if the Trustee determines that the funds requested meet the requirements that Mr. Barnum established. 

“The Library will request and use funds distributed by the Barnum-Willard Trust for the purposes designated by Mr. Barnum which will allow the Library to benefit from Mr. Barnum’s generosity for many years,” Lucas said.

“In recognition of Mr. Barnum’s career, dedication as a professor of history and government, and interest in Willard Library, the Library’s local history archive will be renamed ‘The Dean O. Barnum Local History Archive,’ " Lucas said.

Willard’s local history archive includes digital access to city directories, local newspapers dating back to 1846, a probate index, historical maps, high school yearbooks, and historical photographs, which reflect Mr. Barnum’s interest in history.

The Library will name the amphitheater at the Library’s Helen Warner Branch as "The Dean O. Barnum Amphitheater." The open-air amphitheater, located behind the Helen Warner Branch, is used to host summer programs and concerts. The natural setting reflects Mr. Barnum’s interest in, and love of, nature.

“The distributions from the Barnum-Willard Trust will allow the Library to pursue projects and services that will enhance the benefits that the Library offers to the public,” Lucas said.

“We are immensely grateful for Mr. Barnum’s donation,” Lucas said. “The gift is an investment in the community’s future, which will have a long-term impact on the library and the residents we serve.”