Professor of Politics
No one really can miss Jack Barlow when walking around the Juniata campus. He's the one that looks like a college professor--blazer, bow tie, professorial glasses and comfortable shoes. The image is ironic, because it was not at all academic that he would actually become an academic when he started his career.
He taught his first Juniata class in 1991 and 15 years later the professor of politics has settled into a life as one of the most respected teachers on campus and one of the most active faculty members--working on many committees, serving as department head, advising pre-law students. Jack is so settled at Juniata that Huntingdon may be the place where he has spent the most time.
He was born in Illinois, the son of a Presbyterian minister who frequently moved to new church assignments, including a stint in Yokahama, Japan. By 1966, Jack's father had returned to school to earn a doctoral degree and the family moved to New York, North Carolina, and finally, Richmond, Ky. where his father became a dean at Eastern Kentucky University.
"Living in the South, in the late '60s I think everybody had a sense that the law would be a very powerful instrument for social change," he recalls. "I remember getting angry when we lived in North Carolina at those who were resisting integration. I remember my father being the only white person at a memorial service for Martin Luther King."
Certain he didn't want to move further south to continue his education, Jack went about as far north as possible, to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. Jack was influenced by another Carleton professor, Michael Zuckert. "I took his constitutional law course and never looked back."
He considered law school, but decided to attend Claremont Graduate University to study political philosophy. "In the end, I decided I loved the law too much to ruin it by going to law school," he says with a laugh. While at Claremont he collaborated on a project with two other graduate students to generate op-ed newspaper columns with a conservative point of view. The project was tied to the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution. Jack's work there brought him into contact with the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, which was chaired by former chief justice of the United States, Warren Burger.
He was hired by the commission in 1986. "I did a little bit of everything. I was hired to be the commission's liaison with the higher education community," he says. "My contact with Justice Burger was limited at first, but by the time I left I was working with him every day."
When the work of the commission wound down, Jack had to decide whether to pursue a career in policy or try his hand at teaching. He had never taught at Claremont, which does not have an undergraduate student body, but he had gained experience as an adjunct instructor at American University. He decided to send out applications and received an interview offer from Juniata.
"I was terrified," he says of his first year at Juniata. "I spent about half the year trying to be someone else, but eventually I tried to think of what I would have taken from all the teachers who influenced me."
As his time at Juniata has gone on, Jack has always been visibly impressed at the quality of students that come on campus each year. He has made it a mission to make each student realize just how good they are, often by working with them to apply for scholarships and Fulbright Fellowships. "My job is to help students make the transition from learning things to please the professor to learning things to please themselves," he says.
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