“The Curry School opened my mind to the broader issues of running a public institution of higher education,” says Bob Barnhardt (M.Ed. ’70; Ed.D. ’74).
By the look of his subsequent career accomplishments, his Curry education served him well. Bob already knew a bit about running a school when he came to Curry. In 1966 he left the faculty of the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science and took a position as dean of the Institute of Textile Technology (ITT) in Charlottesville.
At that time, ITT was an industry-funded institution with a two-year program and twenty students. That left Bob with his summers fairly free. His neighbor, former Curry professor Frank Flora, invited Bob to attend his summer class on school administration. “It was my first introduction to the Curry School,and I liked what I saw,” says Bob.
After earning a master’s degree at Curry, he enrolled in the School’s brand-new higher education administration program, led by Jay Chronister. “I entered the program with experience in a very small environment,” Bob says. “We took no public money. We could experiment with things, try new methods of teaching. Students were on full fellowships.”
In the Curry program, Bob learned about how things work in a public institution—the legal aspects, the history, the organizational and financial structures, curriculum issues, and more, he says. “It really broadened my exposure.”
Bob took what he learned at Curry and continued up the career ladder. He was promoted to vice president of research and education at ITT, then executive vice president and chief operating officer. Bob became dean of the College of Textiles in 1987, where he helped raise financial support for anew building on the Centennial Campus.
After retiring as dean in 1999, he was asked to return to ITT as its president, and so he committed to a one-year appointment. N.C. State called him back into service as well. In 2003 he spent six months as interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, and in 2004 he served six months as interim chancellor.
His second retirement commenced in 2005, and since then he and his wife Shirley have been taking life a little slower. Avid ACC basketball fans, they divide their loyalties between U.Va. and N.C. State. They especially enjoy seeing the American countryside from aboard steamship paddle boats. They have cruised the upper Mississippi and the Ohio rivers, as well as the Columbia, Snake, and Willamette rivers in the Northwest.
Last year, the N.C. State board of trustees bestowed on Bob its prestigious Watauga Medal for his outstanding service and dedication to the advancement of the university.
Through it all, Bob has remained a loyal supporter of the Curry School. “Through its excellent programs, its clinics, its partnerships with schools and the business community, its influence on other education programs—and even within the U.Va. community—the Curry School has a tremendous outreach and impact,” Bob says.
For the past nine years, Bob has served on the Curry School Foundation Board of Directors. The Barnhardts have also endowed the Robert A. and Shirley S. Barnhardt Scholarship for Curry students preparing to teach mathematics.
by Lynn Bell
Photo by Tom Cogill