William Penn Photographer Has Captured School History

Robert 'Bob' Barnes has been capturing special moments at William Penn University for decades.

Robert ‘Bob’ Barnes has been capturing special moments at William Penn University for decades.

William Penn photographer Robert Barnes has captured school history for decades.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – You often find him standing on the sidelines of almost every sporting event William Penn University hosts, camera in hand, capturing moments that mean something to the athlete, their parents, and document the loss and triumph.

Barnes isn’t only there on the sideline though; he’s there capturing moments at graduation, performances, academic achievement, and campus life.

Robert, or ‘Bob’ as he’s known to most, has been a part of William Penn since 1961 and has been photographing the events on campus for decades.

Bob is always modest about his abilities and the impact he’s made on many people.

It’s difficult to take what seems the same pictures year after year, but Barnes has a great perspective to the job. “They’re all different people, even if it’s the same picture.”

“You try to catch something that has some emotion to it. Not just a layup,” added Barnes.

Barnes is shooting for the participant and their parents, while others, like Oskaloosa News photographers, are shooting images to capture that one shot we use with the story.

Barnes shared his thoughts about how the school and campus have changed since he first arrived in 1961. “Athletic-wise, those weren’t very good days. We were on the short end of some scores.”

Today, William Penn University is much more competitive than years gone by. That competitiveness makes the photography side of the job much easier, says Bob. “I think at one time, in football, we had 30 losses in a row. One more would have been the national record. We went down to Fairfield and won that game. It allowed us to escape a national record.”

Sports photographers take a few shots along the way. Players, referees and others have a habit of bumping into photographers from time to time. “Oh yeah,” says Barnes in remembering taking a lump for a picture. “I’ve been run over by ref’s at least twice, and in basketball, I was knocked clear out into the lobby. Through the door and out into the lobby.”

“It really didn’t hurt much,” remembers Barnes of the incident. “You just protect the camera.”

Barnes remembers when the Oskaloosa High School Basketball team played their games inside of Penn Gymnasium in the late 1950s and early ’60s. “They [OHS] didn’t have a gym. The little gym at the high school is all OHS had at the time.

That indicates the level of sharing that has always gone on between the Oskaloosa School District and William Penn University over the years. Penn Gymnasium, Community Stadium, and now Statesmen Community Stadium (Lacey) have all been shared venues.

Many photographers hang their season, and or career on that one shot, but Barnes shares his easy personality saying, “If it happens, it happens” to capturing that one iconic image. “I’m not holding my breath.”

Most of Barnes images are stored on film, and they aren’t cataloged and aren’t scanned in at this point. “The only one I have scanned in was the one that Penn has used quite a bit of the tight-end making a catch in the end zone down at the old stadium.”

Back then, Barnes would have taken maybe five rolls of film to a game. That’s less than 100 photos per game. Today with digital, that limitation is off and he shoots several hundred images a game.

Besides shooting so many images for Penn, Barnes is often found at many community events, using his photography skills to document history as it happens.

William Penn University Athletic Director Nik Rule spoke highly of Barnes and his contribution to the university.

“He’s an unsung hero,” said Rule of Barnes. “He’s devoted his entire life, his entire career essentially to William Penn. It’s really a remarkable story and Bob is one of the most humble people you will ever meet, but, he’s seen more of this place than really anyone.”

“We’re just so fortunate and blessed to have him as a part of the Statesmen family forever. For all the years that he has been involved, he took my picture when I was a student. All of our alumni come back and everyone knows Bob Barnes. He’s really a William Penn legend.”

Rule spoke to Oskaloosa News about the ups and downs that Barnes has been witness to over the years. “That’s a guy that sticks through thick and thin. He’s there for more than just wins and losses. We’ve had a lot of really great years at William Penn. You know, we’ve had some tough years. But he’s somebody who’s stuck it out through thick and thin, and that’s a true testament of somebody who’s a devoted person to what our university’s all about, seeing the value in everyone.”

“We’re just fortunate to have him,” said Rule in closing.

Posted by on Jan 6 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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