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Mary Ruth Barnes
1947 -

Mary Ruth Barnes is a Chickasaw artist, author, photographer, storyteller, philanthropist and historic preservationist. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from North Carolina State University and received her master’s degree in education from Montana State University.

After graduating college, Barnes taught high school and college English, art and computer science for 14 years. Barnes has won numerous awards for her art and short stories. She is known for her flowing, freestyle, vibrant depictions of outdoor scenes, First Americans and horses. Her specialties are watercolor and acrylic painting.

Barnes’ love for nature is shown in her artwork, which is influenced by her Chickasaw family and experiences with storytelling. Her art reflects the colorful stories her Chickasaw grandfather shared.

Barnes is the 2015 Chickasaw Nation Dynamic Woman of the Year and in 2019 she received the Women in the Arts Recognition Award from the Ada, Oklahoma chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

As director of development for the advancement office at East Central University, Barnes was responsible for all fundraising activities leading to one of the largest donations in the school’s history of more than $8 million. She later joined the American Cancer Society where she helped raise more than $35 million for cancer research through her role as director of planned giving. For these efforts, she won “Top Performer” and “Top in the Nation” awards. She retired in 2017 after many years of service with the nonprofit.

Barnes is active in her community through the Ada Chamber of Commerce and Ada Rotary. She is the past president of Ada’s Business and Professional Women, where she received the Woman of the Year Award in 2006. Barnes has served on her church board, Rotary board, the executive board of Boy Scouts of America and the Ada Arts Council executive board. She is also active through the Philanthropic Education Organization, Kappa Kappa Gamma Alumni Association and the National Watercolor Society.

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