Philanthropist and executive B. John Barry, UND ’63, awarded President’s Medal

Award cites Barry’s national impact, exceptional commitment to students and higher education

B. John Barry (left) shakes hands with UND President Andy Armacost after receiving the President’s Medal from Armacost, Aug. 19, 2021. The President’s Medal is the highest honor that the president of the University can confer. Image courtesy of UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

UND graduate B. John Barry, one of North Dakota’s most generous philanthropists, recently was awarded UND’s President’s Medal, the highest honor that the president of the University can confer.

UND President Andy Armacost presented Barry with the award on Aug. 19. “It was a distinct honor to present John Barry with the President’s Medal in great appreciation for all he has done to advance the cause of education,” Armacost told UND Today.

“His generosity has provided opportunities for young people throughout the region to excel while pursuing their dreams. His philanthropy has opened new horizons for the University of North Dakota and its students.

“John has my sincere gratitude and heartfelt thanks for his many years of being a friend and a champion to the University and to higher education.”

UND ‘63

A North Dakota native, Barry graduated from UND in 1963, majoring in Banking and Finance. He received an honorary doctorate from the University in 2012.

Barry began his career in banking with the American National Bank & Trust Company in St. Paul. In 1974, he established the Barry Banking Organization, which included controlling ownership of 20 commercial bank charters across the Western and Midwestern United States. He was the majority owner of Sun Country Airlines from 1988 to 1997.

Today, Barry serves as Chairman and CEO of MidAmerica Holdings and MidAmerica Capital Partners, which were established in 1998 following the sale of the Barry Banking Organization.

With UND banners in the background, (from left) President Andy Armacost, First Lady Kathy Armacost, Paula Trom and B. John Barry stand together on the occasion of Barry being awarded the UND President’s Medal. Through his charity work and The Barry Foundation, which he established, “John impacts the world, the region, and UND,” the citation for the medal reads. Image courtesy of UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

The Barry Foundation

In 1986, Barry established The Barry Foundation to give back to society both locally and globally. Headquartered in Fargo, the Foundation ranks among the largest in North Dakota in total giving, according to The Foundation Center’s most recent rankings.

The Foundation has given significant support to higher education in the region, including UND, North Dakota State University and Concordia College. In addition, Barry has given back to his alma mater in many other ways, including service as the co-chair of UND’s North Dakota Spirit Campaign, the first campus-wide fundraising campaign.

“Through The Barry Foundation, John impacts the world, the region, and UND,” the citation for Barry’s President’s Medal declares. That happens via the Foundation’s support of colleges, high school students with their leadership development, and scholarships, the citation continues.

Creating opportunities for students

One of the Foundation’s most notable efforts is The Barry Scholarship Program. The program provides renewable scholarships of up to $5,000 per year for select graduating North Dakota or Minnesota high-school seniors who’ve taken part in the Foundation’s Philanthropy and Youth (PaY) program.  PaY introduces high school students to grantmaking. Since 2007, 6,000 students across 22 area high schools have made 1,600 grants to 350 nonprofit organizations.

“John has made a difference in the lives of so many students, not just at UND, but across the region,” said DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

“His gifts, his leadership and his love for his alma mater are inspirational, and he continues to create new opportunities for students today and for many years into the future.”