J-School Alum Establishes Scholarship in Honor of Grandfather

The J-School takes immense pride in its commitment to creating an environment where students can not only excel academically but also receive the support they need to pursue their dreams. Thanks to generous alumni, the J-School offers a plethora of scholarships to hardworking students who demonstrate strong academics, professional experience, campus involvement and more. 

Samara Sodos (BA‘93), an associate professor at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida and member of the J-School’s Board of Visitors, is one such alum who decided to honor her grandfather’s legacy and establish the Hyland J. Barnes Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of her grandfather. 

Hyland J. Barnes portrait
Hyland J. Barnes (BA’37)

Hyland J. Barnes graduated from the J-School in 1937 after an undergraduate education plagued by the Great Depression and growing anti-Semitism. As Barnes searched for work, he turned to the J-School for guidance. The School encouraged him to stay the course and keep believing, as they did in him. That summer, he changed his name from Hyman Bornstein to Hyland Jay Barnes to secure employment when many employers did not want to hire Jewish people. His career began with freelancing what became over 200 articles for newspapers, trade journals and magazines. Many of his stories were focused on true crime and were featured in publications like Official Detective.

Barnes joined Master Lock as an entry-level salesman in 1940. After years of climbing the corporate ladder, he became President in 1973. In 1974, Barnes led the company to become the first to place a big commercial in the Super Bowl. Gambling the company’s entire ad budget on one commercial, Barnes catapulted Master Lock’s profile, boosted sales by millions and altered the course of advertising and marketing history. 

A letter to Hyland J. Barnes from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication
One of the many letters exchanged between Hyland Barnes and the J-School

Almost 60 years after his graduation, Barnes’ granddaughter followed in his path to the J-School. 

“I knew I wanted to be a news reporter more than anything but my family worried it was an overly competitive and uncertain field of employment. I had one person in my corner: Grandpa Hy,” Sodos said. 

Samara Sodos the night before her graduation in May 1993
Samara Sodos the night before her graduation in May 1993

Sodos wrote for The Badger Herald during her time at UW and sent every article she wrote to her grandfather. Barnes returned every single letter Sodos sent him, commending her hard work and providing some constructive criticism. 

“I remember genuinely wondering why this tremendously insightful man actually believed in me. It gave me so much hope. He would always sign his letters ‘Your adoring grandfather,’” Sodos said. 

Despite Barnes passing away in 1997 at the age of 81, his impact on advertising and media continues to echo, and this scholarship stands as a fitting tribute to his legacy. When Sodos learned about scholarships after helping her friend start one at the University of South Florida, she was inspired to extend this meaningful gesture and open one at her and her grandfather’s alma mater. 

“We were just so close and he was such a wonderful man and such a huge part of my life,” Sodos said. 

The closing to a letter to Samara Sodos from her grandfather, Hyland Barnes. "Your adoring Grandfather."Sodos’ love for the J-School shines through her voice. Her passion for opening the scholarship stems from both her positive experience at the J-School and her relationship with her grandfather. This connection between grandfather and granddaughter not only underscores the personal significance of the scholarship but amplifies the heartfelt motivation behind Sodos’ decision to create this legacy at the J-School. 

“It sounds kind of cheesy, but I’m just such a fan [of the J-School],” Sodos said. 

Barnes’ rejection letter from Master Lock

One of the greatest lessons Barnes instilled in his granddaughter was to learn from rejection; to gain something from every loss. He believed the secrets of success could be found in our failures. Perhaps that’s why he saved his 1939 rejection letter from Master Lock, sent one year before he was eventually hired.

With this scholarship, Sodos wants to drive home the idea that although we don’t all have perfect lives or perfect families, there is always someone rooting for us. 

“I think there’s someone in our lives who always believes in us, whether it’s a grandparent or a friend or whatever that is. For me that was my grandpa,” Sodos said. “Maybe [this scholarship] will help [students] think about that person who believes in them.”

In essence, the Hyland J. Barnes Memorial Scholarship fund not only commemorates the remarkable career of a J-School graduate but also celebrates the bond between a grandfather and his adoring granddaughter.