Barnett Theatre is named after Wynett Barnett, a professor of speech and theater, who worked at UW-Whitewater from 1946 to 1970. She held a variety of positions during her tenure, including department chair and dean of women. She helped establish the summer tent theatre program, brought the national debate tournament to UW-Whitewater, and was instrumental in the creation of the WSUW (91.7 FM), the university radio station.
A theatre scholarship, awarded through the UW-Whitewater Foundation, is named after Barnett and honors students in the following categories: performance, technical, costume, dance, and the all-around student.
Barnett pushed to establish academic majors in both theatre and communication sciences and disorders and was a leader in the efforts to establish an arts college at UW-Whitewater and the construction of a building in 1971 to house it. When she retired, she devoted countless hours to recording works for the blind.