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Chuck '78 and Cindy Barker

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Chuck '78 and Cindy Barker Endow Hands-On Education
April 2017

The friendliness of the Clarkson community is what drew Chuck Barker ’78 to Clarkson, but the hands-on education is what Chuck is proud of most and what led to his successful career in computer science. The quality education, too, inspired Chuck and his wife, Cindy, to give back to Clarkson not only as loyal and generous Clarkson Fund donors, but also by funding an endowment for SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design).

The SPEED program consists of 15 different projects providing multi-disciplinary, team-based learning experiences for students. Participating in the SPEED program helps students build and improve communication skills, obtain leadership experience, and develop problem-solving abilities. Students can participate on a team building a concrete canoe, a steel bridge, human powered vehicles, and more.

Chuck’s interest in hands-on education began long before SPEED was founded at Clarkson. As an undergraduate, Chuck was a reporter for the student newspaper, the Clarkson Integrator. Reporting on news at the University led Chuck to learn more about the University’s history and its namesake, Thomas Clarkson. Specifically, Chuck learned about Thomas Clarkson’s philosophy of teaching through hands-on experiences, a philosophy the University continues to embrace today.

Chuck says his combination of working for the student paper with his Bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Clarkson helped him “develop good writing skills in addition to good technical and problem-solving skills.” The experience also led to Chuck getting hired after graduation by E-Systems in Greenville, Texas. After working in Texas for almost 11 years, he decided to move back to the northeast and closer to home. He went to work for Lockheed-Sanders in Hudson, New Hampshire. There, he met Cindy through a dating service. Chuck had joined the service to meet new people and jokes that Cindy won him “as a door prize” when she attended a singles dance and won free referrals with that same service. They’ve been married for 25 years.

While at Sanders, Chuck also met colleagues with whom he founded a company, Impact Science and Technology. After 13 years of successful operation and growth, the company was acquired by EDO, and then, in turn by ITT, leading to a comfortable retirement. This success was something Chuck could only dream of as a child from a family with modest means. In fact, Chuck wouldn’t have been able to attend Clarkson without the scholarships he received from the University.

Chuck has been a long-time supporter of Clarkson, wanting to give back to the institution that helped him get his start. As he and Cindy were doing their estate planning, Chuck decided that he wanted to do something special and leave a legacy to his alma mater. They wanted to make sure that they supported a program that espoused Thomas Clarkson’s vision, and that was undoubtedly the SPEED program. Chuck explains, “SPEED is the essence of what Thomas stood for—giving people useful skills and getting students focused on solving real-world problems.”  

Cindy agrees, explaining that especially after working as a nurse for over 25 years, she knows how important it is to have a “practical education and to be able to solve problems.” She believes Clarkson’s SPEED program fulfills that mission.

Chuck and Cindy are now both retired and spend their time hiking, camping, and volunteering. Their endowment will support daily operations of the SPEED teams in perpetuity leaving a lasting legacy at Clarkson benefitting countless students.