2022 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner Jed Barton ’17, ’20

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Spirit of Francis

Jed Barton graduated from a small-town high school (Mayville: population 500), but he had big plans. He was interested in studying at the intersection of biology and psychology at Viterbo while getting all the experiences possible and meeting all the people he could before going on to medical school.

Jed Barton
Jed Barton

During his time at Viterbo, Barton certainly followed through on those plans. Majoring in biopsychology (with a minor in family studies), he was on the cross country and track and field teams, performed with Platinum Edition and the improv team, played Mother Ginger in a production of The Nutcracker, took part in summer undergraduate research, and went on service learning trips to Rochester, N.Y., and South Africa.

Barton also found time to get involved with the Student Activities Board, Viterbo Pride, the Honors Program, and the Presidential Inauguration Committee, while working as a resident assistant/peer advisor, tour guide, and assistant house manager for the Fine Arts Center.

He packed a lot into his time at Viterbo, just as he planned, but the lessons he learned about serving the common good inspired him to set aside his medical school plans and devote a year to volunteer service while working on a Viterbo Master of Arts in Servant Leadership degree.

After getting his bachelor’s degree, Barton began a yearlong stint as a volunteer at Christ House, a 33-bed medical respite facility in Washington, D.C., for men who are experiencing homelessness, men who are too sick to be out on the streets but not sick enough to be admitted to the hospital. He also volunteered his time with an affordable housing organization and an LGBTQ+ youth program.

At the end of his volunteer year, Barton stayed on as clinic manager at Christ House.

Barton recently started a new position at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) in the development and innovation division. Collectively, the 1,400 community health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories care for nearly 30 million people regardless of ability to pay.

When he was an undergraduate, Barton didn’t foresee himself working in community health centers and health care for the homeless, though the seeds were planted at Viterbo. “Much of what I engaged with at Viterbo danced around the idea of these two movements,” he said. “It took a winding five-year path to get there, but I feel I am now engaging in the areas I was meant to be in.

“My life took a different path than what I had planned, but I am very happy and grateful for the journey,” Barton continued. “I learned that I need to find a balance between planning and being present to the people around me—in other words, letting life do what it’s going to do. As a type A person, I tend toward the planning or over-planning end of the spectrum. I continue to work on being present and setting my ego aside.”

Barton is no stranger to receiving honors. In his senior year at Viterbo, for example, he was showered with Viterbo honors. He was named Outstanding Student Leader, awarded the St. Catherine Medal, and honored with the Student Service Award and the Student Organization Project of the Year.

For Barton, the Spirit of Francis Award is special. “I am honored and humbled to receive this award,” he said. “It is important to me to live out the values in an authentic way. Actions speak louder than words. I feel this tells me that I must be doing at least a little something right.”

For current Viterbo students (or anybody else) looking to find a way to serve the common good, Barton suggests considering a wise adage from author, philosopher, theologian, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

2022 Viterbo University Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients main page