Over the course of her life, Barbara Barrington Jones has undertaken so many projects to help others that it would take a book to mention them all. Once, when she was preparing to do a program at Brigham Young University – Hawaii for 150 women who had come there from around the world, the president of the university asked her to do something for his students as well. She had just gotten through a grueling schedule of speaking engagements at the university. She was exhausted and wondering how she would get through the program she had already planned.
Barrington Jones went out behind a building where equipment was stored. “I was so tired I fell down on my knees in the mud. I said, ‘Help me, father, I only have one thing to ask you, and that is just help me get through this next week. I just don’t have any energy.’” The reply she heard was, “What you’re going to do for the students of BYU – Hawaii is one of the most important works you will ever do in your life.”
Barrington Jones got up from the mud and shortly afterward started a program that became known as the International Institute of Professional Protocol. It teaches social skills to students from the poorest circumstances around the world to help them succeed in their careers. That’s just who Barrington Jones is: she gives everything she has to give, and then she finds a way to give more.
Because she survived an abusive marriage, Barrington Jones has a particular passion for helping women. “Anyone who goes through what I went through needs to be helped in whatever way they can be,” she says. One of her programs for women is called “A New You.” Now based at Thanksgiving Point, it helps women who are stressed and burned out, particularly if they have survived abuse or trauma. She also runs a camp for troubled teenage girls called “Be the Best You.”
A classical ballet dancer in her earlier years, Barrington Jones says she will always be a ballerina. Even though her body won’t let her dance the way she used to, she still participates in ballet, most recently as the queen in Ballet West’s production of “Sleeping Beauty.” At the headquarters of the Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation in Thanksgiving Point, she established the Ballet West Academy.
Also at Thanksgiving Point, Barrington Jones made a generous gift for the Museum of Natural Curiosity. She’s making another gift, which she will dedicate to her mother, who taught etiquette at a private girls’ school, for a butterfly pavilion and rainforest biosphere at Thanksgiving Point.
Initially reluctant to move to Salt Lake City from California because of the cold and snow, Barrington Jones has been here since 2012 and is having the time of her life. The first thing she did upon arriving in Utah was to attend a Women’s Leadership Luncheon at Utah Valley University. At the time, she hadn’t met President Matthew S. and Paige Holland, but she listened to them speak about the low graduation rates for women in Utah and the need to remove barriers so that more women could get a higher education. They talked about the limitations of the UVU Wee Care Center and the need for more affordable child care for young mothers.
In answer to a prayer shortly before that day, Barrington Jones had heard very clearly, ‘Help the children.’ The large house in California she had built with her late husband was on the market at the time, and she approached President Holland, tapped him on the shoulder, and offered the house as a way to help the University pay for a new Wee Care Center. President Holland wrapped his arms around her and thanked her. It was the start of a great friendship.
“There’s a special place in my heart for President Holland, and I love UVU,” says Barrington Jones. “There’s a spirit there, and I think Matt brings it, although I shouldn’t give him all the credit. There are a lot of good people. It’s very well run, and everything they touch turns to gold. Everything they do is the best.”
Because of her love of the arts, Barrington Jones is particularly proud and supportive of the arts at UVU and recently established an endowed professorship in dance. “It seems like all of the arts programs at UVU are doing 10 times more than you would see at any other university. The Ballroom Dance Team is winning world prizes, and they’re from this young university that people have never heard of,” she says.
Although her ballet career interrupted her own education, Barrington Jones has always loved learning. While taking a break from dancing, she majored in zoology at the University of Arizona, and she has studied at La Universidad Internationale in Cuernavaca to polish her Spanish for speaking engagements in Latin American countries. She has traveled the world for decades as a motivational speaker, helping women to reach their potential. She also has two schools for destitute children in South Africa.
Barrington Jones brings her love of learning to the UVU Foundation Board, and a few connections as well. “Duane Madsen sits next to me on the board, and the funny thing is, I trained his daughter for America’s Junior Miss. So here we are, all these years later.” She also met Foundation Chair James Clarke decades ago when he was a young bellman at an Idaho hotel. He waited on her solicitously during her week there, and at the end, she wrote him a thank-you note. “I thought, this boy is going places,” she says. When they met again at UVU, she was amazed when Clarke, now a highly successful businessman with degrees from Harvard and Oxford, pulled out the note she’d written all those years ago to remind her of that occasion.
Every member of the Foundation Board brings something unique and different to the table, and if you’re lucky enough to be invited to join it, you should not turn it down, says Barrington Jones. You’ll understand why UVU has reached its current state of excellence. “Just to be a part of that makes you feel good about the little piece you contribute,” she says.
Barrington Jones received the Rainmaker Award from the UVU Women’s Success Center for her work improving women’s lives across the globe. She has also received an honorary doctorate in arts and humanities from UVU and has been recognized with the UVU Alumni Distinguished Service Award and the UVU Philanthropic Leadership Award.
“People don’t always realize the passion behind the things I do. It goes very deep, through trials and tribulations,” says Barrington Jones. “I always say your greatest trial will always be your greatest treasure. You can make yourself bitter or better. It’s our choice what we make of the things we go through in life.” When she can’t help a cause or an institution herself, she gets others involved, taking them to galas and performances that will awaken their passion.
Barrington Jones says, “A little girl who came to Be the Best You wrote me a note and put it under my door: ‘Miss Barbara, you have taught me that service equals happy,’ and I thought, honey, you just got the whole message right there.”