(1903- May 5, 1970)
During his career as Executive Secretary of the Alumni Association, Barron, known as “Red” to most everyone on campus, was a welcoming presence to new and former students alike.
For over 40 years, Wallace E. “Red” Barron gave his heart and soul to the students and alumni of Iowa State University. During his long and dedicated career as Executive Secretary of the Alumni Association, Barron, known as “Red” to most everyone on campus, was a welcoming presence to new and former students alike. Red realized early on that his work was about building relationships and serving the students and alumni of Iowa State and by all accounts he performed these duties with integrity and humility.
Red was born in Ward, South Dakota in 1903 to George and Mae Barron and grew up on a farm in central Minnesota. The local veterinarian, an Iowa State graduate, convinced the Barron family that the school in Ames, Iowa, was the college for Red. As a student at Iowa State, Red was involved in as many activities as he could fit into his busy schedule. Among other things, he was president of Cardinal Key, the men’s honorary organization; general manager of VEISHEA; a member of Alpha Zeta and Gamma Sigma Delta, both agricultural honorary societies; president of Tau Gamma Nu fraternity; and president of the Agricultural Economics Club. During the course of his studies, he formed a close relationship with president Raymond Hughes who served as his mentor.
Red graduated from Iowa State in 1928 and was immediately offered a job by President Hughes. He accepted the position of field secretary of the Memorial Union and over the next decade took on increasing responsibilities. He served as dormitory inspector and business office clerk, assistant director of personnel for men, and editor of the Alumnus, Iowa State’s alumni magazine. Finally, in 1937, Red was named Executive Secretary of the Alumni Association and faithfully served in that capacity until 1968, when he relinquished administrative duties due to the age requirement in place at Iowa State at the time. However, he continued to serve the Alumni Office as Coordinator for Research and Special Projects and was named Director Emeritus of the Alumni Association.
As a member of the Alumni Association, Red perhaps understood more than most the importance of establishing relationships with Iowa State students and alumni. After all, during his undergraduate years at Iowa State, he would have witnessed the passionate efforts by students and alumni who were determined to construct the Memorial Union as a campus memorial to the Iowa State students who lost their lives in World War I. He would have seen how thousands of Iowa Staters were willing to sacrifice and financially support the project, even when the state of Iowa was not able to offer any assistance in return. He would have realized that the continued operation of the Memorial Union, which at the time was a private corporation separate from the college, depended entirely on students and alumni for support. Red also must have instinctively understood that the building, and ultimately his future, depended on serving and supporting those same students and alumni to the best of his abilities. By all accounts, he did.
During his 30 years as director of the Alumni Association, Red established and contributed to a number of important programs. He instituted the Honors and Awards Program, continued to edit the Alumnus, helped steward alumni clubs across the country, and initiated a legislative contact program. Red also understood that communication was key to the success of any program undertaken by the Alumni Association and that maintaining an accurate alumni records system was vital to its mission. Red took great pride in searching for and re-establishing contact with those alumni whose information was no longer current.
Throughout his career, Red received numerous honors. In 1965, the Ames Junior Chamber of Commerce named him “Outstanding Boss of the Year.” He was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the District American Alumni Council-American College Public Relations Association in 1967. The following year Red was awarded the Alumni Recognition Medal from the ISU Alumni Association and he served as the Grand Marshal at Iowa State’s VEISHEA parade. That same year the Alumni Association established the Wallace E. Barron All-University Senior Award to recognize the outstanding members of the senior class. In 1969, Red received an honorary doctorate from Buena Vista College.
At the close of Red’s career, Iowa State was in the process of constructing a set of brilliant new cultural facilities. These buildings were dreamed up by President James Hilton, designed by professional architects and engineers, and constructed by teams of workers. And, like the Memorial Union 40 years earlier, they were completely funded through financial support from alumni and friends of Iowa State. Though he would surely never take any of the credit, the successful completion of the Iowa State Center was due in no small part to the humble, tireless, and dedicated efforts of Red Barron.
Barron married Mary L. Rhea in 1928 and together they had three children: Brian, Bruce, and Rhea. Red Barron died on May 5, 1970, in Ames and was buried in the Iowa State University Cemetery.
Wallace E. Barron Papers, RS 21/2/13, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.
Crosbie, Karol. “ISU Alumni Association Greats: Wallace E. ‘Red’ Barron.” Visions, Winter, 2004.