It all started in Louisville, with Robert and Delores Barnett, the patriarch and matriarch of what is one of the largest University of Kentucky families in memory. Robert Barnett earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from UK in 1959 and, since then, the family has never looked back on its UK roots.
What’s so special about this family, you ask? Robert and Delores Barnett had 12 children, and they raised each of them with a love for the University of Kentucky. Each of their children agreed on one thing: they all wanted to attend the University of Kentucky. And that they did, and they all earned their degrees from UK.
“I just think my oldest son decided he wanted to go there and it rolled from each child to the next,” said Delores Barnett, a diehard UK fan who graduated from a nursing program at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville. “I don’t think anyone felt that they had to. I just think it snowballed.”
It is obvious that Delores Barnett is truly loved by each of her 12 children and 34 grandchildren who say she gave them the strength and encouragement to pursue their dreams. However, she has a deep appreciation for her children’s hard work during their college years.
“The truth is, one of the things I am most proud of is that they put themselves through college on scholarships, loans, grants and jobs,” she said. “They all turned out beautifully. Life with 12 kids was never hard. Probably at times we struggled, but we accepted each one that came along, and I don’t think they ever felt neglected.”
The Barnetts are a tight-knit family, often getting together for holidays and family outings to their favorite spot at Kenlake State Park. However, in 2004, beloved husband and father Robert Barnett passed away.
“They loved their dad a lot,” Delores Barnett said. “I was so proud of him. He was a great provider. We were never rich but always happy. I am so grateful to have my children. If I need something, they’re always here. I have been blessed.”
Delores Barnett is also excited about some of her grandchildren who have decided to attend UK. So far, one granddaughter has graduated from UK, three grandsons are current students and another granddaughter will be a UK freshman next year. It's possible there will be more to come!
The 12 sibling UK alumni are:
Bob Barnett ’82
Kathleen Barnett Russell ’83
David Barnett ’86
Ruth Barnett Grimm ’87
Judith Barnett Boehman ’89
Jean Barnett Ezell ’90
Rachel Barnett Harrington ’91
Patrick Barnett ’96
Stephen Barnett ’96
Maureen Barnett McLean ’97
John Barnett ’02
Tim Barnett ’02 ’09