John Barter ’68 ~ Living the Jesuit Mission
Go ahead...ask John Barter anything about global business strategies, principles of physics, or the benefits of a Jesuit education. Barter, who joined SHC in December 2013 as the chief operating officer of Spring Hill’s leadership team, doesn’t only bring decades of expertise and a wealth of knowledge to campus, he carries with him a passion for learning and an unparalleled love of the Hill.
After growing up just a few miles from St. Joseph Chapel, and graduating from McGill-Toolen high school in 1964, just four short years later, the Mobile, Ala. native continued the hallowed tradition of walking down the Avenue of the Oaks to receive his diploma from Spring Hill College.
“At that time, in the late sixties, it was customary—even expected—that most students would attend a nearby college. When I graduated from McGill, Spring Hill College was held in awe in Mobile, a feeling we hope to perpetuate and grow,” says Barter. “It also helped that my favorite teacher in high school went to SHC. Of course, I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Barter, a physics major, enrolled in Spring Hill College and became immediately involved in all that the campus had to offer. Each year of his undergraduate career, Barter participated on the SHC debate team, for which he received a half-tuition scholarship. He was also involved in intramural sports and Greek life, joining Gamma Sigma, now known as Phi Kappa Tau.
“I have great memories of my time at Spring Hill,” says Barter. “It was always very rigorous academically. My philosophy and theology classes were particularly challenging, but I was fortunate to have a good group of friends. They helped make the work a bit easier, and our downtime, a lot of fun.”
Barter also met his future wife, Mary Lou, who was studying elementary education on the Spring Hill Campus. After his graduation from SHC, John and Mary Lou married and moved to Okaloosa County in Florida where Barter began working as a physicist for the Air Force at the Armament Lab on Eglin Air Force Base.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out that I wasn’t meant to be a physicist,” says Barter. “I realized pretty quickly that all of the skills I’d learned as a student at Spring Hill could be used much more effectively in the business world. I’d gained analytical problem-solving skills and had been taught the finer points of effective communication, especially after my years on the SHC debate team.”
He began graduate school at Tulane shortly thereafter, pursuing his Masters of Business Administration. After finishing studies at Tulane, Barter began his career in corporate finance and went on to lead AlliedSignal, now known as Honeywell, Inc., as chief financial officer. He later served a three-year term as president of Allied Signal Automotive, Inc.
“The foundation for my success in life was formed at Spring Hill College. Small liberal arts, residential colleges are such special places and play an integral, important role in higher education,” says Barter. “Our emphasis on values, service, and faith is crucial for today’s youth—needed more now than ever. It makes the role of Spring Hill College today so vitally important.”
In his role at SHC, Barter oversees daily operations of the College and leads the cabinet while reporting directly to Rev. Gregory F. Lucey, S.J. and the college board of trustees. In the two months he’s been on campus, Barter has identified several goals, which include developing a strategic plan for the College, supporting the campus-wide, deep commitment to the Ignatian mission, as well as connecting with the many alumni and friends who love Spring Hill College.
Barter’s vision includes continued recruitment of larger, more diverse, freshman classes, more emphasis on adding new majors to meet the contemporary needs of students, and exploration of a wider distance learning component in order to reach beyond the residential campus. Barter agrees that there is much to be accomplished, but adds that the Jesuit philosophy will help everyone move effectively through the process.
“We are asked by our God to try and be better people every day,” says Barter. “We’re asked to love our neighbor as ourselves—and that is not a passive love. It’s an activist and energetic love that says ‘I am here to help you.’ It’s part of the Jesuit ideology that I live and embrace as fully as I can.”
Barter is working pro bono for the College and is commuting weekly from his home in Charleston, S.C. Prior to joining Spring Hill College as COO, Barter served on the College Board of Trustees for 15 years, four of which he was chairman.
Eventually, the College will launch a search for a permanent president—but at a pace that allows Lucey and Barter to establish priorities and execute plans. This will allow the new leadership team to firmly establish Spring Hill College as an attractive opportunity for an experienced president to take the reins of the institution.