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Barbara Haskew

She has been on a mission to blaze a trail for women in higher education.

Economics - Alumni

Barbara Haskew (HCB ’62, ’69) is no stranger to forging new paths. Her accomplishments include being the first woman to earn an economics Ph.D. from UT, the first female dean of the Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) College of Business and the first female manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Throughout her life, she has been on a mission to blaze a trail for women in higher education.

As a journalism undergraduate at UT, she was editor-in-chief of The Daily Beacon (then called the Orange and White) and led several other student organizations. She took economics as an elective and enjoyed it, and economics faculty member Fred Holly encouraged her to apply for a national defense scholarship. She landed it and completed her Ph.D. in 1969.

“Barbara has always been a visionary and a natural leader,” said her husband, Jerre Haskew (HCB ’62). The two met as students at UT, where they were both Torchbearers. They married in 1963 while Barbara was in graduate school. After she completed her Ph.D., the couple moved to Memphis, where Barbara took a faculty position at Memphis State University. 

She went on to accept a tenured faculty position at MTSU, becoming the youngest chair of the department of economics and finance at age 36. After leaving higher education to become manager of rates for TVA, she returned to MTSU in 1988 as dean of the College of Business. She immediately worked to raise the lead gift of $4 million to design and build a new state-of-the-art building, the first on MTSU’s campus to offer computers for faculty and students.

She later became MTSU's interim vice president of development and university relations and the university’s first female provost and vice president for academic affairs. During this time, she became dedicated to attracting and retaining a diverse student and faculty population at the university and developed the university’s first academic master plan. 

After 40 years with MTSU, Barbara retired but maintained her service-minded attitude. In 2010, President Barack Obama nominated her to the TVA board of directors. She served as a member and chair of the people and performance committee until 2015.

The Haskews now live in Chattanooga, where they continue their involvement in their community and the state. During a chance meeting with a local teacher, Barbara “adopted” an inner-city third-grade class, providing needed supplies and support for the teacher and her students. Barbara and Jerre also support the J. Fred Holly Chair of Excellence in Haslam, named in honor of her beloved faculty mentor.

In 2001, Barbara was diagnosed with breast cancer and later suffered an embolism. These roadblocks have not kept her and Jerre from their outreach in the community or their desire to improve the lives of others.

“Anything we’ve ever done has been a labor of love,” said Jerre. “We’d be nothing without UT. UT gave us the platform to do what we’ve accomplished in life.”