Cycle of influence – USC News & Events

Posted on: November 13, 2023; Updated on: November 13, 2023By
Thom Harman, [email protected]

We’ve heard this familiar storyline: Someone is aware of the University of South Carolina
because of family ties, comes to USC and loves it, then influences other family members
or their children to be Gamecocks as well. But when a person gets to USC that way and then goes out and helps recruit not just
family members but prospective students from an entire city and beyond … now we’re
talking about a cycle of influence with a much larger ripple effect. That’s where Roger Barnette, ’92, comes in. “I get such joy and satisfaction from
anything I can do to help this program and its students and staff,” he says. Barnette was born in North Carolina and grew up there and in New York. His father
graduated from South Carolina’s College of Business Administration (now the Moore
School) in the mid 1960s, so Barnette was always well-acquainted with the Gamecocks. He already knew in high school that he wanted to be an entrepreneur with a focus on
engineering and computers. Once he was accepted into the South Carolina Honors College
and won some scholarship money, “it made my decision easy,” Barnette says. “I was
very comfortable with the campus, the college and the city, and I was excited to go.” Barnette’s time at South Carolina proved to be everything he’d hoped. “Ages 18 to
21 are such formative years in every person’s life, and the University of South Carolina,
and the Honors College in particular, is such an incredibly nurturing environment,”
he says. He credits small class sizes, engaged professors and the SCHC’s staff as
all being incredibly important during his college years. After graduating from USC, Barnette went on to earn a master’s degree from Emory University
and begin his career. He actually started his first business, an internet company
called, while still in college. By 1999, was one of the 20 most-trafficked
sites in the world. In spring 2001, amid the .com crash, was sold to Ask
Jeeves. Next, he started a company called Search Ignite, “a software tool for enterprises
looking to buy online advertising,” Barnette says. “It started with a search engine
and expanded into display advertising, affiliate marketing and other channels as well.
I left the company about seven years ago, and when I left, it had grown to a 500-person
business doing over $100 million annually in revenue.” He soon landed at MessageGears, recently named one of Atlanta’s best places to work
— joining the company when it had about 10 employees. MessageGears is a customer engagement
platform helps large brands market to millions of customers more efficiently. One
of his first steps was to codify the company’s culture. When companies are young,
“We can let that happen on its own and hope that it ends up being good, or we can
be purposeful about the kind of company we want to work at,” he says. So they came
up with nine core values, like innovation, assuming goodwill, celebrating achievements
and operating with positive energy. “When I think about how the Honors College operates,” he says, “it’s in a very similar
way. It has the same kinds of values — treating others with empathy, transparency,
celebrating achievement — and does all this while being an absolutely world-class
academic institution.” “And,” he says about the SCHC, “I think that’s where I first saw that you can do all
of those things.” Those shared values, along with providing the excellent foundation upon which Barnette
built his career, are why he has been so quick to help the Honors College for more
than a decade. Through his involvement with the college’s partnership board, Barnette
helps recruit the next generation of successful SCHC graduates. And it hasn’t gone
unnoticed. “Roger was one of the first people on the board to welcome me in and was willing to
offer his time, talent and treasure for the betterment of the Honors College,” says
Marcus Fogle, lead senior director of development for the college. “His affinity for
the Honors College shines brightly.”

Marcus Fogle (right), lead senior director of development for the Honors College,
makes the rounds at the 2023 alumni reception in Atlanta, which Roger Barnette hosts
and helps to sponsor.

One of the ways Barnette is helping the next generation of Gamecocks is by hosting
an annual prospective student/alumni reception at the Capital City Club, where he
is a member. He is also a paid sponsor of the event, along with several other alumni. While they may seem like a small piece of the puzzle, these events fill a real need
and are quite memorable for those who attend. Prospective students and their families
who attend learn more about the SCHC from current students, development staff members
and alumni. Current SCHC student Ashutosh Arora is an ambassador for the college and has attended
receptions in Charlotte and Atlanta. “I want to help prospective students in any way
I can when they’re making their decision because I remember how confusing it was for
me,” Arora says. “The Atlanta event does a really good job of making sure we’re fostering connections
with alumni,” Arora says. “At the same time, we’re able to reach out to new prospective
students. They might not be able to come to Columbia, so this event does a good job
of making sure we’re able to help those prospective students who may be confused or
have questions but aren’t able to get them answered on campus.” Despite the event’s success and all he does for the Honors College, Barnette remains
humble. “What I do for the Honors College gives much more to me than it feels like
I give to the university,” he says. The Atlanta reception came about after Barnette learned of a similar event in Greenville.
“I just immediately said, ‘We should do that in Atlanta. That would be amazing,’”
Barnette says. “And the development team at the Honors College has been extremely
supportive. They do, by the way, all the work. I don’t want to take credit for any
of the legwork that they put into making it successful.” Barnette’s support has enabled this reception to flourish, and it’s just one of the
ways in which Barnette gives back to his alma mater and the Honors College. Thanks
to his generosity, and support from members of the Honors College, the cycle of influence
that started with Roger Barnette’s father decades ago is generating a ripple effect
that increases its reach every year.

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