Photo courtesy of Florida Southern's marketing communications

Salvatore Ambrosino

Publix Super Market heiress and influential philanthropist, Dr. Carol Jenkins Barnett, 65, died at her home Tuesday night Dec. 7  from complications with Alzheimer’s disease. 

“With intertwined hearts, we grieve deeply together as family, friends, and as a Florida Southern community,” President Anne Kerr said in a press release yesterday. “Carol left an indelible impact upon Florida Southern College. Her leadership and vision for education fostered a drive for learning and social betterment that has compelled countless FSC students and alumni to shape a better world for us all.” 

The Florida Southern College alumna donated vast sums that funded the creation of many of the campus’s facilities. She also gave to Lakeland Regional Health, aiding the creation of a center for women and children’s care in her name, becoming perhaps the most influential philanthropist in Polk County. 

A memorial service will be held for Barnett  at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, at First United Methodist Church, 72 Lake Morton, in Lakeland.   

Her family’s contributions to the college helped fund buildings such as the Barnett Residential Life Complex, the Barnett Athletic Complex, Jenkins Hall, Carol Barnett Jenkins Center for Early Childhood Learning and Health, and the Barney Barnett School of Business and Free Enterprise. 

“Carol was an inspirational leader and a nationally renowned advocate for access to and excellence in education,” Dr. Kerr said in a statement to The Southern. “She has made an incredible impact in our state and in the nation in education, as well as in many other programs that help individuals and families.” 

Her influence and dedication to higher and primary education will be missed deeply by the college, Kerr says.

“I admire her with all my heart, and certainly will miss having the benefit of her treasured friendship and support,” Dr. Kerr said. 

Barnett graduated from FSC with a degree in business and marketing in 1979. While attending college, she joined the Junior League of Lakeland and remained active in public service the rest of her life. 

She and her husband, Barney, have given generously to nonprofit organizations such as United Way, Florida Partnership for School Readiness and Family Fundamentals. The Barnetts have also funded public projects throughout the community, including Barnett Park. Her final donation was what founded the Bonnett Springs Park under construction, which recently received a government grant in partnership with the city of Lakeland, $42.9 million to improve infrastructure. 

She is survived by her husband and two sons, Nicholas and Wesley Barnett and three grandchildren.


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