Condolences and Tributes

In memory of President Jeffrey H. Barker
Converse University President Jeff Barker

The Converse Community is deeply saddened by the death of Converse’s 11th President, Jeffrey H. Barker on July 21, 2021. Below are memories and tributes from family, friends, alumni, students and colleagues.

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Honoring President Jeffrey Barker

A campus-wide memorial service to celebrate Dr. Barker’s life and legacy took place on Friday, August 27, 2021. The memorial was live-streamed and the video is available on Converse’s YouTube channel.

President Barker Memorial Service

Jeff and I were starting assistant professors at Albright college in fall 1983. He and Jan became good friends of my then-wife and me during my three years there. I am a botanist, and Jeff and I would occasionally banter about philosophy versus science. I was always impressed with his sharp intellect and command of the literature in his field. He was kind, gentle, engaging, and scrupulously honest. He and I were jogging buddies, often running to the top of the nearby Mt. Penn. I was often exasperated because when the slope got steeper, he would run faster! But, perhaps that was a testament to his character. I am pleased, but not surprised, that he accomplished so much good in his career, always focused on helping others. I wish the very best for his family. He was a good friend, whom I’ll not forget.


I was friends with his sister Alison. Jeff and I used to ride horses together. I talked to him a while back. He reached out to me looking for a schoolmate. We both lived out in the Bend. (Red Bluff)He was a very sweet guy. I’m saddened to hear of his passing.


I graduated from Albright College in 1995 and had Dr. Barker as a professor while studying there. He constantly pushed me to reach higher in my studies and improve myself. I don’t know that I would have had the courage to go to law school if it were not for his belief in me.
I send my thoughts and my prayers to both his family and the members of Converse.


Our family first met Jeff and Jan through Jeff’s parents, Warren and Mary, who were our neighbors in Greenville. Sam was a little fellow then and he would come over and visit our son Alex when they were in town visiting his grandparents. Sam and Alex became great friends. That led to Jeff and Jan and us becoming great friends and then they moved to Spartanburg!

My best memories of all of us together are from the times when our families would get together at their place for good food and walks and talks. The Barkers are so easy and relaxing to be with. We simply would hang out together.

Jeff was one of the most kindest, gentlest, dry-wit funniest, and interesting people I’ve ever met. We love him and Jan and Sam so much and will miss Jeff so much. Thank you Jeff for your friendship to us!


I am Jeff’s brother-in-law. I met him when he was wooing my sister Jan. He had longish blonde hair and played a guitar, singing the songs of Don McClean. He drove a red MG convertible back then. He was a DJ at KBLF radio in Red Bluff, CA. He also worked on the family cattle ranch. I promise I am not making this up. Jeff rode a horse, moved irrigation pipe in hot weather, and engaged me in conversation about philosophy when the caliber of my reading at that time was Mad Magazine. He was 18 going on 35. He was a wonderful husband to Jan and an engaged and caring father to Sam. Like you, I am stunned and grieving at his sudden passing. I am better for having known Jeff. But I wanted you to know just what a multifaceted life he lived. He was unusual and pretty amazing.


I was a DJ in Red Bluff from 1972-1974. Jeff was in high school at Red Bluff High and expressed interest in radio and becoming a DJ. I helped train him in all the aspects of on-air broadcasting, and he soon became my weekend relief. He was even the subject of two promos recorded by Cheech and Chong and also one with Dick Clark, during interviews I recorded with the famous comedy duo and the legendary host of American Bandstand. He remained on the air for quite a while after I moved on to another station in Nor Cal. I had just spoken to him earlier this year for the first time in many years, and he explained that he was getting ready to retire and he would be making a trip out to Northern California/Bay Area and we should plan on getting together, which I was looking forward to. RIP Jeff.


I first met Jeff when I started teaching adjunct at Converse in 2006. He created my first Full-time position which kept me at Converse. Over those 15 years I worked very closely with Jeff professionally but personally I had the pleasure of getting to know Sam and Jan when I helped Sam with his math and Sam helped my son with his guitar.

One Halloween my department dressed up as characters from Harry Potter. I was Professor Trelawney. In character, I had Jeff look into my crystal ball to see the future. That picture always makes me smile!


Jeff was a singularly excellent person. Always professional, and always sincere, he embodied the Converse mission with his wisdom, justice and clear thinking. My most profound memory of Jeff was to have the privilege of listening to him discuss bioethics over dinner in China, with the Chinese doctor who served as President of Anhui Medical University. He was brilliant. He was thoughtful. He was kind. He always was. And he will always be missed by all of us.


When I started my journey at Converse in 2011, I had no idea that Dr. Barker would become such a mentor. He was a true leader, scholar, athlete, and friend. Dr. Barker believed in this first-generation student who had a huge fear of “surviving college.” His placing my hood at graduation is one of my favorite memories. We often had conversations about my being a teacher, and he made me feel so special with his encouraging words. I remember one conversation with him telling me he’d love to be in 2nd grade again, just to take my class. He was one of the many people at Converse I admired who inspired me to pursue my master’s and doctoral degrees. Our last conversation before his passing was my telling him how honored I’d be to shake his hand at my final graduation in May. I will cross that stage with Dr. Barker in spirit and the hope of making him proud.


Your kindness, humility, intelligence, and devotion to Converse is unmatched. You consistently made time to get to know students, despite serving in demanding leadership roles, and gave sage advice. Thank you for some wonderful pre- and post-graduation chats in your office, for supporting students by showing up to performances, Model Programs conferences, and other campus events, and for leading with a pure heart. I will miss your calm yet energetic presence very much. Your service to Converse is a legacy that will never be forgotten.


I interviewed to be President of Converse College back in 2005 in an “on campus interview.” During that time, I met Provost Jeff Barker. I came to recognize how much of a treasure he was to the college. Though I was not chosen to be the President, I continued my relationship with Jeff through national provost groups. He represented the college well. He was all Converse could have wanted in a chief academic officer. I went on to be a President at the College of Idaho, but I still knew of Jeff’s excellent work. Just recently, I heard that he had been named as President of Converse–I could think of no one better suited for what the future held for the College. I am so very very sorry to hear of his death. Having lost my own husband in January 2021 of a sudden heart attack, I can only imagine how Jeff’s family must feel. My prayers are with his family, and with the college community. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory. And may his memory be a blessing.


Jeff Barker was such a brilliant and kind soul and he loved Converse College.


Like all of you, I was saddened and shocked from hearing the news. Jeff was a good friend and colleague in my 3 years at Converse. His gentle humanity and wry sense of humor is evidenced by many comments here. I’m really going to miss him.


In every encounter over the past 20 years when I returned to campus or he visited Birmingham, Jeff Barker revealed himself to be a thoughtful and intelligent person. His loss is a great one for the Converse community and the broader worlds to which he contributed so much. My prayers go to his family, friends and colleagues who are already following his example.


I had the privilege of serving with Dr. Barker on the South Carolina Medical Association Ethics Committee for a number of years. Dr. Barker was highly intelligent and both gentle and kind. I always looked forward to his comments and his deep and thought-provoking presentations. I am deeply saddened to learn of his untimely death. He will be deeply missed.


Jeff Barker was a treasured colleague at Albright College during my early years as a faculty member. He was a great mentor, and a good friend. He was a well-loved teacher, who helped shape the lives of many students. Jeff and I became new parents at the same time, and talked about the balance between our commitments to the college, and our commitments to family. Throughout his time at Albright, Jeff was a calm and reasonable faculty leader, with a quick wit and unquenchable good humor that provided a solid base of humanity even as we wrangled with difficult college issues.

More recently, Jeff has continued to provide sound advice and reason for me as I have moved into the role of Provost at Albright. In our conversations over the past few years I have continued to benefit from his mentorship and good humor.

Our faculty and alumni will always remember him fondly, and with a smile. He has left an indelible impression on all of the lives that he has touched.


I am in shock and deeply saddened by this tragedy. Dr. Barker had such an impact on my life. I will always think fondly of him. He believed in the potential of his students and that was life-giving!


Words cannot express what a tragic loss this is. Jeff was a scholar, a pragmatic and proactive professional, a philosopher, and at heart, a teacher. He was also a friend. We shared a background of growing up on a cattle ranch and an understanding of the work ethic and lessons that we learned there. He was calm in a storm and steadfast. He often appeared stoic, but behind the scenes, he cared deeply for people.

One thing I came to appreciate about Jeff was his sense of humor. A common theme in our meetings was a discussion of challenging issues. He almost always came prepared with one gem, however, and at the end of our meetings would ask, “Do you want to hear some good news?” This always made me laugh and he would delight in sharing a student, faculty, or staff success story.

Jeff had an athlete’s heart and drive. He didn’t tell many people about his triathlons and how he trained for them, but his work and performance there was just more evidence of his drive for excellence, self-discipline, and unflinching tenacity. I will never forget how he willed himself through a grueling trip to China while still recovering from a serious accident (a trip I begged him not to take, but to no avail).

After he announced his retirement as provost and planned to return to the classroom, he had a renewed joy and energy. He would tell me with great zeal the courses he was planning and the materials he would cover. I was trying to figure out how I could take his classes because I knew they would be stellar.

I miss Jeff. I miss his wisdom, his sweeping knowledge in many areas, and our great conversations over glasses of fine tequila (just one more thing Jeff taught me).


I’m so sorry to hear that. It was so sudden to know this sad news. I am a Chinese student who graduated from Converse College two years ago. Dr. Barker is really a very nice person and helped us a lot when we were studying abroad. Thank you very much, Dr. Barker.


Jeff Barker was the consummate professor and administrator, but he was also the best of friends. I could not have asked for a better mentor, person of integrity, and generous counselor. In short time, he also became the dearest of friends, and we continued to reach out to one another to share stories about our families, how our boys were growing up, and the joy we were finding in our University life. I still cannot believe that my friend is gone, but I am finding comfort in how much of himself he invested in others. Indeed, Jeff Barker has left a tremendous amount of himself with us, and I am grateful for the time I had to know and love this brilliant, kind, wise, gentleman.


Dr. Barker was the Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Charles Lea Center. I always remember him as being extremely kind and supportive. He made others around him feel important and valued. Even when we had some challenges, he would always remain focused and calm helping us to get to the right decision. I have had the pleasure of talking to him personally as well and always was impressed with his breadth of understanding of the complex world we live in. I will miss him greatly.


Dr. Barker was extraordinarily kind and helpful to my family when my father, Henry, died, and then again when my mother, Janice, passed away a couple of years later. I wish his family the same kind of comfort that he brought to ours in our time of grief.


Dr. Barker was my introduction to Philosophy instructor during my first semester of college. It was truly under his guidance in that class that I started to become more confident in my answers and perspectives.

A year and a half later, I took his Bioethics course where he taught how to support our opinions with both facts and feelings. Without his guidance and support, I would not be the woman I am today.

When I graduated, he was so amused that I “slid” to get my diploma, and told me he hopes it would happen the next year too.

I’ll always remember him beaming after the ceremony while connecting with his students’ families. Dr. Barker was the embodiment of Converse’s values; he saw clearly, decided wisely, and acted justly.


Dr. Barker was an avid supporter of the Alpha Lambda Delta (Honor Society for First-Year Students) for many years.


Dr. Barker was not only my colleague, he was one of my professional mentors, and friend. He always had encouraging words as it related to the HR role. He loved the HR Newsletter and often commented about the beautiful bright colors. We were partners on so many projects and leadership assignments.
Jeff was insightful, witty, and genuine. I could always count on him to make me laugh at one of our senior leader meetings. He knew Converse so well. His expertise, knowledge, and can-do attitude will be missed dearly. I will continue to pray for his family, friends, and Converse community.

Rest well my friend.


To me, Dr. Barker was a gentleman first and then a scholar. He was the epitome of the best that Converse had to offer in any capacity that he served. I was always stunned by his calm demeanor and reassurance that all would be well regardless of the challenges or circumstances facing the college. His work was done to perfection, and I truly believe his students and colleagues worked hard to emulate the same in themselves. I will truly miss the pride he had in Converse and the way he spoke with confidence about the evolution of the institution. His belief in Converse becoming a university was unshakable. I will miss his laugh, his purple ties, his neat and tidy suits, and his steady hand at the helm of our beloved Converse University. Rest In Peace good and faithful servant.


Jeff and I worked closely during his entire 20 year career at Converse before I retired in 2015. Even after that, I would stop by his office (our offices in Carmichael were side-by-side) to discuss plans and events of interest to both of us. When I was Provost and he was Dean, we often had pleasant as well as serious chats about challenges at Converse; when I was Interim President, I knew he would handle all the duties of Provost faithfully and well. He was always upbeat and optimistic and a friend as well as close colleague; he and Jan were gracious hosts when Nan and I visited their home for a social time–shared some wine and jokes as we relaxed from our labors. He was a true professional–kind, competent, and always put the best interests of Converse faculty, staff, and students first on his list of priorities. I will miss his leadership, his academic excellence as a professor, and his friendship in the years ahead. He left Converse a better place for all of us.


Truly one of the best professors I have ever had. I looked forward to each one of his classes because I always knew he’d have something exciting and thought-provoking in store. I feel so fortunate to have known him even if it was for a short time. He will be missed dearly.


When Jeff was fresh out of the gates of Purdue, I was introduced to him at Albright College in Pennsylvania. He was starting a career. I was a freshman hoping to major in philosophy. Weeks into an introductory ethics course, he called me into his office to ask my opinion about an issue. He was struggling with it, while I was confident and passionate about it. My comments seemed to help him. But I was confused. I whispered, “Why are you asking me? You teach me; I don’t teach you.” He lowered his gaze at me with what I would soon come to know as his sly, trademark smile and replied calmly, “Yes you do.” The response was simply stunning. It revealed his deep humility and openess, and it inspired me to remember his example during my own teaching career. I told countless students this story on opening day, hoping to establish a good rapport with them, and in most cases, Jeff’s legacy did just that. He was one of the only people I’ve ever known who seemed to approach perfection. Never once in 38 years did I glimpse the limits of his integrity or kindness. I wish we could have had more time to explore our shared interests, but I am deeply grateful to have been blessed by Jeff’s presence.


Jeff and I became friends when we were assistant professors at Albright College in Reading, PA, in the early 1990s. We went running together, worked on a book project that didn’t pan out, and talked at length about academic matters, our personal lives, and our careers. We both moved on to other institutions, and he accomplished great things in his career, but more than anything, at least for me, he was a wonderful friend who brought wisdom, kindness, and humor to every conversation.


Dr. Barker was an exceptional teacher and mentor who had a very big impact on me during my time at Converse and beyond. The January term 2005 Course War Crimes and Punishment that Dr. Barker taught will always remain as one of my most memorable.


Dr. James L. Hailstock, Rev. Audrey V. Hailstock & New Day Baptist Church offer condolences the family of Dr. Barker and to the Converse community. We are praying for you all. God bless you all.


On behalf of the Spartanburg Interfaith Ministerial Alliance, we extend condolences to the family of Dr. Barker and to the Converse University community. Our prayers are with you.


Jeff and I worked together on a Mellon Grant in 2013, among other collaborations. He was tireless in his efforts to promote Converse, and passionately committed to the liberal arts tradition. What a loss.


Dr. Barker was always a joy to be around. His welcoming smile and kind eyes broke down the provost-to-student relationship to simple a friendship. Much of Converse’s success can be attributed to Dr.Barker. His genuine love for the community was evident through his many years of dedication and service to the college. I pray that his work outlives us all and that his memory lives on forever. May his absence provide the opportunity for other individuals to step up, lead, teach, learn, and invest in community in a similar way.


I had him for an ethics class at Converse and it was one of the best classes I’ve ever had. He was passionate about everything he did and he motivated me to be the best person possible. He will be missed.


I only worked with Dr. Barker briefly when Career Development was without a leader. I was intimidated by his seriousness at first and then became aware of his sense of humor. It was always my goal to get him to crack a joke or smile. He was well respected in the community and this was evidenced by the number of emails I received about internship and job opportunities. He was always thinking about Converse students and how to get them connected to future opportunities. Jeff has been the face of Converse for so long and leaves a great legacy of putting the institution before oneself. I wish I could tell him “thank you” and see his slight smile one more time.


My sincerest condolences to Converse and to the family of Dr. Jeffrey Barker at this time of great loss to the college and Spartanburg communities. As Converse’ seventh president, I was not privileged to know Dr. Barker personally, I knew of him through many kind and favorable comments made by many who knew him and benefited from his capable teaching and administrative leadership. Converse was fortunate to have shared twenty years of academic progress with Dr. Jeff Barker. His gifts of teaching and leading will always remain.


This is such a shock and an incredible loss felt by many. Jan and Sam are in my prayers, as is the entire Converse community. I was blessed to know and work alongside Jeff Barker for 17 years and I appreciated his sensitivity, his dry wit, his candor and willingness to gently offer an alternate perspective, his caring nature, his intellect, his great and often surprising sense of humor, and his genuine interest in an eclectic range of topics. His absence in this world will leave a true void.


My senior year at Converse was Dr. Barker’s first. I met with him to discuss an issue to which he would be the deciding voice. After I had made my case, he looked at me and asked, “If you could make this decision, what would you do?” As a student, it totally caught me off guard. I remember telling a Student Life advisor about the meeting and her saying, “Oh, I like him!” Now, almost 20 years later- I still remember that meeting vividly. I went on to work for Converse on two different occasions, and as a colleague- Dr. Barker was just as thought-provoking and kind. He was committed to Converse and to academia. His legacy will forever live in each student he has influenced during his tenure at our beloved Converse.


I’m a former Chinese International Student of Converse. Jeff Barker‘s visit to China in around 2017 confirmed my desire to study in Converse. This changed my life. I’m so sad to hear this. I’m also so thankful for him. RIP Jeff Barker.


I am deeply saddened by this news. I enjoyed working with Jeff on several shared projects while I was on the faculty at Wofford College. He was kind, collaborative, smart, and humble – and so very dedicated to his family, colleagues, and students. We will miss you, Jeff, and Byron and I mourn with all who loved you.


As many have said, Dr. Barker was truly caring and deeply passionate about Converse. I sat beside him in a meeting one day and he commented on my handwriting, saying that it was very neat and he wished his was similar, or at least more legible. We started talking about his love of fountain pens, something I didn’t have a lot of experience with, but was very interested. He let me test his out and told me he was going to purchase a fountain pen for me. Sure enough, he came by and gifted me a beautiful green fountain pen (my favorite color). I have cherished this gift because of his generosity, but moving forward, it will serve as a reminder to push myself to be a better person and advocate for Converse students, modeling the type of behavior Dr. Barker inspired.

Additionally, when I was pregnant with my first child and looking forward to welcoming him to the world, Dr. Barker pulled me aside after his role as president was announced. He assured me that he, Converse, as well as Dr. Hopkins would always emphasize and support families on campus and that they would do everything in their power to ensure we had what we needed. I was instantly comforted by this, because Dr. Barker truly meant what he said.

Dr. Barker’s leadership, mentorship, and friendship will be sorely missed, but his legacy will continue to live on through all those who were inspired by him. Dr. Barker’s influence has always been a vibrant thread in the cloth of our community; he has made an indelible mark on our Converse Community.


I have known Dr. Barker for about 25 years. We first met as members of a statewide Bioethics committee. His contributions to those efforts were meaningful and insightful, and he helped prepare ethical statements that have guided the medical community to this day. Five years ago, he asked me to serve as an adjunct faculty member in both the undergraduate and graduate health care programs. He changed my life. Teaching at Converse has been one of the best experiences in my life. The confidence he placed in me can never be matched. I am broken-hearted. Today the world is a little less positive, a little louder, and a bit more painful.
However, we can take comfort in hearing that gentle, persuasive voice urging us to press positively forward with humility and confidence as he did, knowing that by following his example we can contribute to the education of a new generation of leaders. It would make his blue eyes sparkle. Thank you, God, for sending Jeffrey Barker. He made a difference!


Dr. Barker was one of my favorite professors at Converse and one of my favorite people. I loved to crash his office without an appointment, sit in his rocking chair, and talk about life and the future. He was always kind and encouraging, but firm when he needed to be – he saw right through my nonsense. The ‘B’ I got in his biomedical ethics class was the only B I’ve ever been legitimately proud of – he challenged us, made us debate critically, and refused to let me be the complete relativist I wanted to be. I took every class with him that I could and enjoyed every one, even when I struggled to meet his great expectations. He would’ve been a phenomenal President and I’m so sorry we won’t get to see all of the wonderful things he’d do. I grieve for his family, his friends and colleagues, and for the strong guiding light that future students won’t have to lead them through their time at Converse. He will be greatly, greatly missed.


I have a variety of lovely memories of Dr. Barker, but one that still sticks out in my mind is from my freshman year in 2018. I was nervous about going to large events, let alone without anyone to go with. I can’t remember anything about the event– not about what it was for or when exactly, nor any other people I met there– but I remember waiting in line for doughnuts behind Dr. Barker. At that point I knew barely anything about him or his contributions to life at Converse, but he smiled at me and struck up a quiet conversation about how excited he was to get his doughnut. He was remarkably genuine and kind, even in a conversation about as mundane a topic as free doughnuts. I was so nervous until that moment when I suddenly found myself in a place that wanted me there. That brand of unrelenting gentleness is rare, though I know for a fact that it was not rare for people to experience it in his company, just as I did. Dr. Barker’s strong character, among his many, many other merits, have made him an invaluable member of Converse’s community. I will miss him dearly.


In my 13 years at Converse as Professor of Voice, I experienced various highs and lows, all of which Jeff helped me to navigate. During my lowest time in 2017 and my decision to retire in 2020, Jeff listened, mentored, and advised. He was more than a boss – he was a friend and his door was always open. I shall always be grateful for his presence in my life and his gifts of knowledge, patience, and caring to the entire Converse community. Rest easy, dear Jeff. You will be missed.


I’ve known Jeff for about 20 years and served with him on the Charles Lea Center Board and the Finance Committee. He was so very dedicated to the many organizations (including the arts and healthcare) that he served as a board member or committee member. Our Spartanburg community is all the better for his dedication to improving the lives of others. His passing comes as a shock, and a reminder to follow his example in serving others. He will certainly be missed, and remembered with appreciation.


I came to Converse to establish the music therapy program in the Petrie School of Music in 2005. Dr. Barker was in full support of our new program and the collaboration with Spartanburg Regional Hospital over the years. We shared many conversations about the ethical practice of an emerging field, and the professionalism of our students and colleagues. He was also instrumental in our collaboration with the Greenville Center for Integrative Oncology to fund a full time position. I will miss his kind and measured presence and always be grateful for his support. My heart goes out to his wife and son as they grieve their husband and father,
Dr. Barker was consistently present at student activities and events and would always make time to converse with students. He would stop and speak to my friends and I whenever he was on campus. He spoke a lot of his family and his son. He was a warm, caring person that treated each student as important. He was always encouraging. He will be missed.


I’ve got plenty of fond Dr. Barker memories, but this one really stood out to me today. The summer before my junior year, I served as an Orientation Leader. It was pouring before the big assembly with the new Connies and their families, and I was one of the poor souls tasked with holding doors open and greeting folks as they came in. At one point, Dr. Barker came in, holding an umbrella. I went chasing after him, calling the wrong name like a silly person, but somehow he still realized I was talking to him, responded, and, of course, let me borrow his umbrella.
In the bustle of the end of the assembly, I lost his very unremarkable black umbrella. I was so upset. My conscience continued to get the best of me, and I went and got him a new umbrella and wrote him an apology/thank you note to go with it. I tried my best to sneak them both to his door and leave them without him catching me, but of course he did. He found the whole situation hilarious and told me that I took this whole “lost umbrella thing” to a whole different level than he ever would have.
He also told me he had a theory there were only about ten different black umbrellas in the world and we were all passing them around to each other. I know the next time I see a lost black umbrella, I’ll wonder if it didn’t pass through Dr. Barker’s hands before it landed where it is today. Just like those ten black umbrellas, Dr. Barker passed around so much of his kindness and without him, the Converse community is definitely wetter than it would have been was he still with us today.


On behalf of the Anderson University family, we offer our deepest condolences to Dr. Barker’s family and the larger Converse University family. I’ve personally known and enjoyed Dr. Barker’s friendship and collaboration for many years and this is truly a sad and tremendous loss for not only Converse, but for the entire SC higher education family. Dr. Barker was a very fine educator, leader and individual. He was one of the best. We are going to miss him greatly.


Dr. Jeff Barker was a wonderful man and teacher. He helped me find myself and made me realize what I was supposed to do with my life. He was kind, non-judgemental, open, and attentive. He carried himself with dignity. He was someone I aspired to be like. He was one of my favorite professors. To say that I am saddened by this news is a gross understatement. I am heartbroken, and highly doubt I’ll ever meet another man like him. I will strive to honor his memory by being the kind of teacher that he was, and I will never forget what he taught me.


Dr. Barker was a kind, caring, and capable educator and leader. His field of study intersected philosophy, law, and science. He was a deeply curious and compassionate person who will be dearly missed. I and many were better for knowing him.


My family is saddened to hear the devastating news of Dr. Barker’s sudden passing. We had the honor of meeting him just this Monday at Converse University’s Orientation sessions. Our prayers go out to his family. My hope is that Converse University pulls together to work at dealing with this tragedy. My incoming undergraduate is dealing with this as well.


Dr. Barker was an incredible teacher, mentor, and person. He was so supportive and friendly, and was always happy to make time for me. I had the privilege of taking a philosophy course and an independent study with him, and he went above and beyond to help me apply to grad school, and stayed in touch as the years passed. His wisdom, passion for teaching, and care for his students are leading examples of the kind of professor and person I aim to be. I will greatly miss Dr. Barker.


Dr. Barker was a consistent face each year as the 7 school districts brought to the campus of Converse College our 8th grade Junior Scholars. He welcomed the students and always had a timely message for the scholars and their families. As a former middle school principal and superintendent, I found Dr. Barker to be a true leader. He led with humility and a servant’s heart.


When I arrived at Converse in 2015, Dr. Barker was one of the first to welcome me to campus. He was always willing to listen and offer his sage advice and gentle guidance. He was a tireless advocate for students and their access to higher education. He was my beloved President, my colleague, one of my heroes, and most of all my friend. I will miss him dearly and share the grief felt by the rest of my Converse family.


If you ever needed a calming chat or quiet warm smile to center you, Dr Barker was there to do it. I am completely heartbroken that we’ve lost such a generous and loving contributor to the Converse community. He was a pillar at Converse, full of knowledge and ideas, and someone that everyone respected. My deepest condolences to the family, friends, and Converse family as everyone navigates this tragic time.


When I heard the news, I was surprised and sad. I will always remember you, remember your care for me in the past two years, and selfless help to my studies, courses, documents and so on. We cannot withstand the waves, but always remember the lighthouse. Thank you and I will miss you.


Dr. Barker’s dedication to Converse was remarkable, but I got to see another side of him when he and I co-edited his grandfather’s memoir about growing up in Kansas. He eagerly plunged into the research about Kansas history, and his enthusiasm was so much fun to watch. I am grateful to have known him and to have had the privilege of working with him on what was for him a very personal labor of love.


I had the occasion to work often with Dr. Barker and appreciated his thoughtful approach to his work. Although I was delighted for him when he decided to retire from the relentless demands of the Provost position, I was also relieved when he agreed to step in as the Interim President after the loss of President Newkirk, because I was confident in his unique ability to lead the university. I am shocked and saddened at the news of his sudden death and extend my deepest sympathy to Jan and Sam as well as the entire Converse community.


Needless to say, I am in shock. Dr. Barker was a big influence on me when I attended Converse as the SC James Madison Fellow. We served on the accreditation team and have remained in touch by e-mail. We will pray for his family and the Converse community.


In 2017, I presented at the annual SCICU meeting. I was one of the few non-STEM students presenting at the poster session. I remember finishing up the presentation, shaking with nerves, and Dr. Barker coming over to congratulate me with his kind words. His affirmation and time spent watching us present and offering those congratulations and advice – meant so much to me. He will be so dearly missed.


Dr. Barker was one of the best professors I had at Converse. He was a remarkable person who brought out the best in all who knew him. He will be greatly missed!


Dr. Barker was a kind, soft-spoken and witty Converse icon. Beyond the walls of the institution, he was a beloved member of the Spartanburg community. He leaves Converse a better place than he found it which isn’t surprising because he always left every person he encountered better than he found them – that was his gift, and he will be missed.


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