For more than 50 years, James Barber ‘64, M.S. ’79, has given dedicated service to Southern Connecticut State University and its students. He was recognized by the SCSU Alumni Association with its 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award on Friday, Sept. 9 at a campus event attended by more than 300 family members, friends, and fellow alumni.
A record-setting hurdler as a student athlete, Barber went on to become a successful Owls coach for almost 25 years, training numerous track champions and many All-Americans. His expertise also saw him coach both the men’s and women’s USA track teams at national and international championships.
In 1971, Barber launched Southern’s first Summer Educational Opportunity Program, which over time successfully opened the door to a college degree for scores of minority students. He also led the university’s affirmative action office, served as director of student supportive services for more than 20 years, and now helps to advance Southern’s mission as director of community engagement.
A committed community activist, he founded New Haven’s track and field outreach program for young people, working with more than 4,000 children and youth over the years. And he has served as president and a long-time board member of the New Haven Scholarship Fund, which has assisted generations of local high school students to pay for a college education.
“Unsurprisingly, you are a legend in New Haven, having inspired and mentored generations of city youth,” said Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, in a citation honoring Barber. “And at Southern, your influence both on and off the field has impacted students and alumni nationwide, many of whom say they would never have graduated without your support and guidance.
“Your many contributions are being recognized today with the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award – a fitting recognition for a true Southern icon and a worthy member of the Nutmeg State.”