A Leader’s Advice: Get Involved and Give Back
“Some would say that success is a matter of good luck,” says Henry Barr ’68, senior partner of Barr & Cole in Newton, Massachusetts, concentrating in real estate and business law, and president and CEO for DUCO Associates, Inc., a real estate investment firm. “My definition of luck is the intersection of opportunity and preparation. No one is an overnight success. It takes engagement and education: long hours of dedication, a willingness to overcome a natural reluctance to avoid rejection, strong role models, and good organizational skills.”
A government (now political science) major in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UMass Amherst, Barr subsequently attended Boston College Law School and then clerked with the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Believing that an MBA would improve his ability to deliver justice, he earned one at Suffolk University in 1978. “It was during the Blizzard of 1978 that my career in judicial administration was launched,” Barr remembers. “Boston had been shut down, but I stayed at the main courthouse for three days, working closely with the governor and several justices, to assist with keeping the essentials of the justice system open.” Seven months later, Barr was appointed to the new position of administrator for the Trial Courts of the Commonwealth.
Barr credits his late father with encouraging him to maximize opportunities through education. “Tragically widowed when I was nine, he found himself raising three children alone,” Barr recalls. “But he was always positive. He was my hero.” Coming from modest means, Barr chose UMass Amherst for a top education at an affordable cost. “I was introduced to academic challenges and interpersonal involvements that led me on a path far beyond what I envisioned as a freshman,” he says. “Some wonderful, caring faculty taught me the importance of debate, deliberations, compromise, and reflection.”
Barr’s undergraduate years came at the height of the Vietnam War. For his senior honors thesis in government, he wrote on the Selective Service System—“the most grueling exercise of my academic career,” Barr recalls. “The insights I gained and what it means to produce quality work continue to serve me well. And memories of my advisor, Professor George Sulzner (still teaching), are profound.” Of the many lessons learned and applied to his life, none, says Barr, “is more important than the promotion of reasoned discourse. The College provided me the confidence to seek creative solutions.”
Barr also credits his career development to taking optimum advantage of other aspects of college life. He was elected to various dormitory committees, ultimately rising to the Student Senate and chair of numerous committees, including the President’s Council. He was a resident assistant and member of the champion intramural basketball team, the Grayson Aces that reigned for two years. “These involvements,” Barr says, “were a source of wonderful friendships. In fact, I met my future wife Andrea, also class of ’68, through a colleague in the Student Senate.” Married for 36 years, Barr says his wife, a former teacher, has been the most significant contributing factor to every aspect of his success. “We are truly a team. We worked hard, and tried to keep a balance with a reasonable division of labor, ability to compromise, and a willingness to do what it takes to achieve an objective.” They have two grown sons.
Despite the rigors of Barr’s workload, he is strongly committed to community and philanthropic involvements, including for the past eight years with UMass Amherst. Currently he serves as a director for the UMass Amherst Foundation, an advisory board member of the Center for Public Policy and Administration (CPPA), and chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board, working to raise the visibility of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences with the public in general and alumni in particular. “Fueled by the dean’s irresistible enthusiasm and commitment to excellence and my own appreciation of the College, we undertake this effort in complement to the direction set for UMass Amherst by the Chancellor.” Barr clearly understands the importance of alumni involvement and support. Having funded an endowment that allows the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to offer a four-year undergraduate scholarship, he also spearheaded the George Sulzner Internship Fund last year that provides financial assistance to master’s level CPPA students.
October 12 , 2005