Looking back fondly, paying forward generously
Even as a young man, engineering alumnus Phil Barnes liked to give others a hand. When he met Anishka Turner though, his interest in giving back would blossom, as would his life moving forward.
Phil and Anishka met on her first day of electrical engineering graduate school in 2001. They became friends, and eventually more than friends, marrying in 2007.
Their mutual desire to help others materialized quickly. While in graduate school, the two started a math and science study table in an Ohio State library for youngsters from the east side of Columbus. After receiving their engineering doctoral degrees from Ohio State in 2010, and launching successful careers at Intel, they were instrumental in establishing an endowment fund to provide undergraduate scholarship and operational support for the Minority Engineering Program at The Ohio State University.
“She was always the type of person to help young people who wanted to try to improve their life,” Phil said. “Always willing to give her time, energy and money. She often said ‘If we don’t do it, who will?’”
Anishka unexpectedly passed away in 2015. To honor her memory and infectious spirit, Phil recently created the Dr. Anishka K. Turner-Barnes Legacy Fund for engineering student scholarships.
“The world was a better place with her in it,” Phil said. “This scholarship fund is to keep her spirit alive, to help young engineering students who she would want to help personally if she was here.”
Anishka was born and grew up on Cat Island in the Bahamas. In addition to her altruism at Ohio State, she was passionate about giving back to her nation by exploring ways to accelerate connected computing to those less fortunate.
The Dr. Anishka K. Turner-Barnes Legacy Fund provides one or more scholarships to engineering students who are active participants in Ohio State’s Minority Engineering Program or the National Society of Black Engineers. Since her Bahamian heritage was so important to her, Phil has specified that first consideration be given to students from the Bahamas or Caribbean region.
After earning her bachelor’s degree at Texas Tech in 2001, Anishka was attracted to Ohio State’s excellent reputation in analog mixed signals research. She wanted to learn from highly cited and respected faculty members like Associate Professor Steve Bibyk, who would become her advisor.
“Anishka had a fierce determination that was evident in her work ethic and technical development,” Bibyk recalled. “And she was also one of the most likable students we have ever known.”
Anishka was the foundation PhD student of the Texas Instruments-Ohio State analog fellowship program, which supported a number of other students. She also coordinated the student outreach activities of the program.
“She connected to younger students in truly remarkable ways,” Bibyk said. “We now continue her outreach efforts in her place, being inspired and lifted by the time we were able to spend with her.”
Phil said that not long after meeting Anishka, he introduced her to his mentor Minnie McGee, former assistant dean of the Minority Engineering Program.
“She was really blown away that programs for minority and women engineering students existed here,” he said. “So we both got involved in the programs as students, and after graduating we decided to put some financial resources into them.”
Phil is now a senior software engineer for Intel in Phoenix, where he remains very active in programs that support young African Americans interested in STEM fields. In honor of his efforts and investments, he received the 2017 Diversity Champion Award from Ohio State's Alumni Association.
“Anishka inspired me to give,” Phil said, “and hopefully our story will inspire others to give.”