Community Foundation of St. Joseph County

Be a fan on Facebook

Barbara Warner

South Bend Is Where Her Heart Is

Barbara Warner

Travel—with its exhilaration and anxieties, its breathtaking new views and unsettling cultural differences—often serves to deepen our love for our own homes. Although local philanthropist Barbara K. Warner has traveled extensively throughout the world, South Bend is where her heart is. 

Barbara’s family has a long-established place in the South Bend community. Her father, businessman Eugene B. Warner, studied law and dealt in real estate, while her mother, Merle (Shidler) Warner, was a writer for the South Bend Tribune, as was Barbara a generation later. Barbara was a supporter of the Children’s Aid Society, and later became president of the Family & Children’s Center.

Barbara attended South Bend’s public schools, graduated from Penn Hall Preparatory School in Chambersburg, PA, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Sweet Briar College, VA. After graduation, she worked as an advertising copywriter in Washington, DC, and also for the Erwin Agency, a Washington-based news service.

Although Barbara first developed a taste for travel as a child—her parents, too, loved to visit faraway places—the majority of her international trips took place during her adult years, during the second half of the twentieth century. She’s been all over the world, from Europe to South America, from Asia and the Middle East to Australia and New Zealand. She’s seen incredible beauty, such as the striking blue, green, and turquoise colors of the lakes in Chile, as well as more disturbing scenes: India shocked her with its devastating poverty and its milling streets.

Her travels have added to her appreciation of the world’s history, archeology, art, and anthropology, and she’s collected artwork and other souvenirs from dozens of destinations. In many ways, though, Barbara’s experiences with other countries and cultures have cemented her commitment to the community in which she was raised. Here in South Bend, her generosity has changed our landscape—literally.

Visit the South Bend Museum of Art, and you’ll have a chance to admire the work of local and regional artists in the Warner Gallery and Warner Rotunda. Go to see South Bend Civic Theatre’s upcoming performance of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and you’ll be watching from a comfortable seat in the Warner Studio Theatre. Listen to the soaring notes of Associate Concert Master Mark Portolese’s violin, and you’re hearing the music of the South Bend Symphony Orchestra’s Barbara K. Warner Chair. As a board member at Indiana University South Bend, Barbara has worked for the construction of the university’s art gallery. Barbara has received the Excellence in Philanthropy Award from South Bend’s Center for History—a particularly appropriate award considering her personal history with the Oliver Mansion. Years ago, before the mansion was donated to the Center for History, Barbara attended family parties there.

In the social services, her philanthropic interests span the full range of human experiences. She’s been a champion of the Family & Children’s Center, as well as the South Bend Museum of Art, South Bend Education Foundation, and the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County.

“I’ve known Barbara for more than twenty years,” says Rose Meissner, president of the Community Foundation. “She served on the Community Foundation’s founding board of directors and has been a personal friend and mentor to me from the very beginning.  I have always admired the breadth of her interests, caring as much about social services as the arts.  When I ask for feedback or advice, she gives it to me straight up, which I appreciate, softened by her ever-ready sense of humor.  The impact of her generosity—not just gifts of money, but ample time and talent—is evident throughout our community.  She has made a tremendous difference.”