Journey into International Finance Leads Alum to Help Others Attend UMass Amherst
“It all has to do with being in the right place at the right time—and a little luck,” says Tim Barabe ’75 of his upwardly progressive career in international finance, primarily at Novartis AG, a Swiss pharmaceutical company. When he left the corporation after 22 years in 2004 to take over the financials of Regent Medical Ltd. in Manchester, England, he was CFO of the Sandoz Generics sector in Vienna, Austria. Before that he was president of the Specialty Lens division of CIBA Vision (after a merger with Sandoz, Ciba-Geigy became Novartis in 1997). Now that Molnlycke has purchased Regent, and having completed his tasks of combining businesses and eliminating overlapping positions, Barabe is moving to “parts unknown.” Judging from his history, he’ll be in the right place at the right time for the next adventure (see note at end). In the meantime Barabe’s HOPE Scholarship Fund at UMass Amherst’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is making exciting futures possible for young people with financial need, leadership qualities and a desire to achieve.
Barabe’s personal journey began with the desire to go to college, something neither of his parents managed to do. However, being the second of eight children, funds were tight. As luck would have it, the day before graduating from Dennis-Yarmouth High School, he was awarded $950 from the Citizens Scholarship Fund, which—along with some loans, work-study and two summer jobs—allowed him to attend UMass Amherst. “I had no idea what to major in,” Barabe says. “I wandered from math to political science on a road to nowhere, partying and not achieving my potential. At the end of sophomore year a friend suggested I try business as I seemed to have a knack for it, given my ability to put myself through school.” Things clicked immediately. “Professor James Ludtke (who died in 2000) forced me to challenge myself and my comfort zone,” Barabe recalls. For the next two years, Barabe’s GPA soared, enabling him to graduate cum laude and go on to graduate school in finance at the University of Chicago.
With MBA in hand, Barabe had lots of job offers. He chose Olin Corporation in 1977 because of its training program. After nearly five years, on the threshold of a reorganization, Barabe joined CIBA-Geigy. Less than two years into the job, requested to pick up the international vice president of finance for a company function, he was asked if working overseas held any appeal. “Two months later my family and I were in Basle, Switzerland, and my love affair with international business began. I was lucky enough to work with most of Ciba-Geigy’s senior management during the next five years, which led to many opportunities.”
In 1988, Barabe returned to the U.S., taking over Ciba-Geigy’s US treasury function. He saved millions for the $4 billion company before being asked by a former Basle associate to move to Anaheim, California, as CFO for the corporation’s Composites Division in 1990. “And two years after that, at the annual senior management meeting,” Barabe recalls, “I told the head of the contact lens and lens care division how much I liked his business, and wondered aloud if it might move from Switzerland to Atlanta where they had a manufacturing facility.” Though no such plans were disclosed at the time, only a few months passed before the call came for Barabe to be CFO of the division—in Atlanta—because, lucky for him, the former CFO wouldn’t relocate.
“I stayed in Atlanta for ten years,” he says, “allowing my youngest child to graduate from high school. During this time I decided to pay back that Citizens Scholarship, only to discover it no longer existed.” That’s when Barabe created the HOPE Scholarship Fund. “HOPE stands for Helping Outstanding People Educationally. It is for young people at Dennis-Yarmouth High School. And in many ways it honors my mother, certainly intelligent enough to attend college but born in the wrong circumstances. She continues to inspire me. I stipulated UMass Amherst to make the funding most cost effective, and I hope the recipients will someday give back as well. UMass Amherst really needs funds like these—the endowment is small and needs to grow. Alumni can make a difference."
In 2003 Barabe headed to Vienna as CFO of the generics division. “I loved the city, but not the work environment. A former colleague began recruiting me to be CFO of a leveraged buyout of a division of his company (Regent).” Barabe said no four times, but after the fifth attempt he moved to Manchester, England in 2004. “Life is short. Stay awake for it, is my motto,” Barabe says and points to highlights: “Living in so many other parts of the world—traveling to 55 countries. Learning German. Watching Boy Scouts become men. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Promoting people. Giving blood. The hot-air balloon ride over the Serengeti. Establishing the HOPE Scholarship. Receiving thanks from scholarship recipients.” His recipe for success? “Take risks. Stretch yourself. Hard work, teamwork, perseverance. Hire the right people, don’t keep the wrong people. Give your team credit for their accomplishments—you’ll be more successful.”
March 6, 2006
July 2006: Tim Barabe is now Senior VP and CFO at Human Genome Sciences, Inc. in Rockville, MD.