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In Memoriam: Kathleen Barber Ph.D.

Posted on July 11, 2014

The Department of Political Science mourns one of its favorite and most accomplished graduates, Professor Kathleen Barber. Professor Barber passed away on June 29, at the age of 90.

Kathy Barber was the model of an engaged scholar. Having graduated from Wellesley College in 1944, she began graduate studies at Western Reserve once her youngest of four children entered kindergarten. At her admissions interview some faculty member who is fortunately no longer with us expressed skepticism, saying that, “Shaker Heights housewives always drop out.” He could not have been more wrong.

Dr. Barber joined the political science faculty at John Carroll University in 1968 and was a professor there until retiring in 1989. She chaired the department from 1977 to 1985. But this does not begin to express her contributions to the community. While she was in graduate school, she became one of the leaders of the seven-year campaign to save the Shaker Lakes by blocking construction of the Clark Freeway, which would have linked Cleveland to Pepper Pike. As part of that effort she was one of the founders of the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes.

The highway plans were cancelled in 1970. Kathy served on the Shaker Heights City Council for two terms in the 1970s, and as a trustee of the George Gund Foundation from 1980-1998. She was a founding board member of the Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland Public Radio, and North Coast Harbor, and active in the Community AIDS Partnership Program. In 1995-1996 she chaired a panel to develop proposals for reforming Cuyahoga County’s government – proposals that were the basis for the reforms adopted in 2009 and implemented in 2010.

I came to campus when Kathy was more fully-retired (though still quite active) and got to know her as a frequent participant in the Friday Public Affairs Discussions. She was kind, congenial, and smart as a whip. A very special and inspiring person.

Remembering the skepticism that met her entrance into our graduate program, Dr. Barber endowed a fund to provide some extra support for political science graduate student women. Her family suggests that she be remembered either through contributions in her memory to the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes or to the Kathleen L. Barber Fellowship. A memorial service was held on August 2, 2014, at the Nature Center, 2600 South Park Blvd, Cleveland Ohio.

Joe White

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