In 1966, Mr. Bill Parry, then President and CEO of Akron Welding and Springs Company, paid a visit to Dr. H. Kenneth Barker, then Dean of the College of Education at The University of Akron. Mr. Parry, a successful Akron businessman and entrepreneur, approached Dean Barker about a series of classes concerning economic education. Mr. Parry felt there was a staggering lack of fundamental economic understanding in public school curriculum. Working with Mr. Parry, Dean Barker began to consider how best to implement economic education into public schools.
According to Dean Barker, "We felt if we could inspire teachers to include principles of economic education into their curriculum we could make a tremendous difference. The math was simple: if one teacher reached only 20 children a year with basic economic principles, that teacher would, over a 20 year career, impact 400 American lives." In the case of high school and university curriculum, they reasoned, the impact was amplified. "At that time, teachers were teaching 5 or 6 classes a day. That meant they could reach 5 or 6 times as many students."
Originally, Dr. Jack Watt taught individual classes in economic education. Soon after, day-long seminars in economic education were offered. At a later date, community leaders in business were invited to lecture and their participation encouraged further community interest. "There were two amazing things about those first seminars," Dean Barker explained. "The first was that they were so successful. It was as if you could see a light bulb go off in the minds of the teachers and students who attended. The second thing was how wonderful these businessmen were at teaching economic education. Without a doubt, one of the stars was Mr. Bill Ruhlin, Chairman of the Board of Ruhlin Construction."
Growing Community Support
By 1968, community support for economic education offerings at The University of Akron was growing. Funding was sought to create a Center for Economic Education. "Our first step was to create an advisory board to help us organize our efforts and secure funding for on going programs," Dean Barker explained. "The first individuals to agree to help were Mr. Richard A. Riley, CEO of Firestone; Mr. Mario DeFederico, President of Firestone; Mr. Gordon Heffern, then President of Goodyear Bank; Mr. Jerry O'Neil, CEO of General Tire, Mr. Charles Pilliod, Chairman of the Board of Goodyear; Mr. Bob Mercer, President of Goodyear; Mr. Al Spalding, President of Spalding Realty and Mr. Bob Crane, Director of Training for Goodyear."
"I remember clearly the commitment the community and individuals made to recruit support and funding for the creation of a Center for Economic Education here at the University. When Gordon Heffern was named President of Society Bank, now known as KeyCorp, he took a one-month leave of absence between positions and helped to seek funding for the center during that time. His help was invaluable in the establishment of the center."
"Tom Geopfert of J. W. Geopfert & Co. agreed to help us to find support within the small business community. Mr. Geopfert, and dozens of other Akron area businessmen, contributed to the effort."
"I'll never forget our first actual financial sponsorship. It was an amazing gift of $120,000.00 from Firestone. This was soon followed by the generous support of many other local businesses including Goodyear; General Tire; Roadway; A. Shulman; J. W. Geopfert & Co.; Goodrich; Buckingham, Doolittle; and Akron Savings & Loan. We couldn't have done this without their funding. Their support allowed us to make the Center for Economic Education a reality."
The H. Kenneth Barker Center for Economic Education Historical Timeline
- Mr. Bill Parry met with Dean Barker, Spring, 1966
- The first seminar on Economic Education was held at The University of Akron, 1967
- A committee of interested individuals from the Akron business community was formed to direct center development which will become the model for the permanent Advisory Board for the Center for Economic Education, 1969
- The University of Akron began a search for the first Director of the Center for Economic Education, 1973
- The University of Akron Center for Economic Education a Northern Ohio Center for Economic Education and the representative of an eight-county area, 1974
- Mr. Stan Mengel selected as first Director of the University of Akron Center for Economic Education, 1974
- The University of Akron Center for Economic Education program achieved national recognition by the Joint Council on Economic Education. Mr. Richard A. Riley, Chairman of the Board of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, spoke on behalf of the University of Akron program, 1975
- The Akron Rotary Club worked with the Center for Economic Education to offer the first on-campus seminar for more than 100 high school students from the Akron area. Speakers included Mr. Chuck Pilliod, Mr. Bill Ruhlin, and Mr. Jerry O'Neil, 1977
- Dr. Fred M. Carr named Director of the Center for Economic Education, 1979
- The Center for Economic Education began collection of economic education materials, curriculum and course work to create a comprehensive teacher's reference library in economic education, 1980
- Center offerings evolve to include seminars, lectures and International learning excursions, 1981
- Mr. Charles Herberich, President of Akron Savings & Loan, became a major sponsor of the Center for Economic Education, 1985
- The University of Akron Center for Economic Education was officially designated The H. Kenneth Barker Center for Economic Education by a unanimous vote of its Board of Advisors. Both the President and Board of Directors of the University of Akron approve the designation, 2001
- The H. Kenneth Barker Center for Economic Education is awarded a grant by the Knight Foundation for the cataloging of the Center for Economic Education Curriculum Library, 2001
- The H. Kenneth Barker Center for Economic Education at The University of Akron launched the first Virtual Campus for the study of Economic Education. The first endeavor of its kind, the Virtual Campus encompassed eight separate, seamless web sites including world-wide teacher information exchange, an interactive student learning center; Googlenomics, the first search engine of economic education and a foremost teacher reference library for economic education, 2002
- Barker Center moves into and dedicates new space in the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education Zook Hall, 2019