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Bob Barnhardt
Bob Barnhardt.

TRANSCRIPT—Interview with Bob Barnhardt

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(Compiled May 18, 2006 by Chad Morgan)
Interviewee: Bob Barnhardt  
Interviewer: Chad Morgan  
Interview Date: May 16, 2006  
Location: Raleigh, NC— N.C. State College of Textiles   

BB=Bob Barnhardt
CM= Chad Morgan  



CM: Thanks for agreeing to speak with me. I wanted to start off by asking you a little bit about your background and how you came to work at the College of Textiles.

BB: My undergraduate degree was in textile engineering. I went to graduate school in Charlottesville at ITT. As many graduate students do, you get a little bit involved in teaching and I thought, “I like the classroom activities. I like the challenges that go on.” So my career deviated a little bit from saying I was going to go into a textile mill perhaps, but I would go into textile education and combine the best of both areas. So I did work five years at what is now Philadelphia University but was then Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. I went back down to ITT as the dean of that program—a very small, specialized two-year Masters program—stayed there some 21 years, went through a lot of different activities there. And then the opportunity came to come to NC State. The carrot that was out there that said why did I want to leave Charlottesville, which Cheryl and I were enjoying immensely, was the concept of the Centennial Campus, which I just thought was absolutely phenomenal and quite visionary. For what my background had been with a particular emphasis on applied research—that’s what we did at ITT—I could see that all coming together on this campus with tremendous fundamental research history that we have. And that [applied and fundamental research] would fit together perfectly.

CM: You served as Dean of the College of Textiles for some 13 years. I wondered if you could talk about some of your main responsibilities in that capacity

BB: I guess we spent the first three or four years getting ready for the move. I came in 1987. And we physically moved in January of 1991 to the Centennial Campus. So when I arrived on campus, the plans were well-developed. I think the architects for the college here had done a great job of interacting with the faculty and coming up with a plan that was going to fit the faculty’s needs. They were very flexible in many ways and really allowed us to go on into the future. Once we got on campus, then it was a question of beginning the transition to go from one to the other. That meant a tremendous amount of work with industry. Because one of the things we couldn’t afford to do was to move into a new building and take all the old lab equipment we had from Nelson Hall and David Clark Laboratories. We spent a lot of time with industry friends, a lot of time with just alumni trying to raise funds so that we could actually augment the very generous funding that was granted by the state of North Carolina.

CM: Textiles was, I guess, the first major academic unit to move [to Centennial Campus]—

BB: Yes. I brought this along [referring to a copy of The Raleigh Times from July 4, 1987 featuring the dual headlines “NCSU textile school voted against move: Former dean dismisses Centennial Campus as ‘a center for industrial research . . .’ ” and “New dean favors move for NCSU textiles school”] for your archives. Have you seen that?

CM: I’ve heard about that.

BB: You’ve heard about that?

CM: Yes, and was going to ask about it.

BB: Well, the first day I showed up on campus was—it was July 1, 1987—two of the associate deans were literally standing out on the doorsteps of Nelson Hall saying, “There’s a white paper on your desk that you might want to read now.” The white paper basically said that the textile faculty and certainly the previous dean did not see the advantages of the Centennial Campus. In fact, they saw many more disadvantages than advantages. And they had voted, according to the paper, unanimously not to go to the Centennial Campus. So that wasn’t exactly how I thought my first day of work, or my first month of work, was going to be. When you read the article, it was unanimous, but it was the dean and ten other people who signed it. You know, we had forty-some people on campus. So there were a lot of abstentions. Anyway, we put that behind us relatively quickly and just said the move was going to come and let’s figure out how to make it beneficial to everyone concerned.

CM: Where was the resistance coming from? What were the issues the faculty had with the move?

BB: It’s interesting. I think that there were two main reasons and then probably a political reason was probably a third one. One was some people saw this [Centennial Campus] as an industrial campus. They didn’t get the whole picture yet that industry and academics and government can fit together very properly, and that because you’re co-located doesn’t mean you have to be influenced in any of your decisions by outsiders. So that was one. There’s a second, then, that was really around, I think, N.C. State. As a land grant university, I felt that there were always some people who felt that this was not quite the university of the traditional university, the traditional European university. And therefore this was a step further removed from being a traditional university. And that worried them a little bit. They didn’t see this as a university model. I saw it as the university model of the future. That’s why I wanted to make sure that you had been able to talk to Chancellor Poulton because really he, I think, is one of the major people who saw that coming, and I admire him for having that vision.

CM: You’ve talked about how the big carrot for you was Centennial Campus. What were some of the benefits that Textiles enjoyed from being located out here?

BB: You can take any measurement that you want to measure at a university—whether it’s student enrollment, whether it’s student satisfaction with the courses, whether it’s the amount of generated research dollars, whether it’s the amount of short courses and all that—and they went up significantly when we came to the Centennial Campus. And I remember going down once—being asked to go down to testify before some sub-committee of the North Carolina Legislature and what I was able to point out in that is that we didn’t have any more faculty when we came here. We moved out with exactly the same faculty, and here [indicating an increase in numbers with his hands] at some point in time is where all these numbers fit in prior to coming to the Centennial Campus and here are significantly higher numbers were after we’d been here. And the only thing that had changed was basically the opportunity to take new laboratories, new classroom technology and develop things, develop curriculums, develop research programs, develop extension programs that benefited the industry and us simultaneously.

CM: What was working at Centennial Campus like in those early days? You were one of the pioneers, I guess . . .

BB: Yes, we were the pioneers, but I never felt we were isolated and again part of—in that paper [referring to the newspaper reporting the petition presented by the textile faculty not to move] and I don’t even know where that paper is; I think I threw all of them away, those white papers. I hope there’s one somewhere. But they [the faculty] raised such issues as how are we going to get from one campus to another. Well, this is 1987, we’re not going to move out here until 1991—don’t worry. I mean, we’re going to have a bus system. Well, how are we going to change classes? To me it was very simple. I don’t know how we’re going to change classes except if the university changes classes on the hour, we’re going to change classes on the half-hour. So I did not see the logistics problems that some people seemed to see. And interestingly enough, when we were going through all of this, someone sent me over to the library and said “Look at the complaints made by the textile faculty when we moved from Caldwell Hall— Caldwell, I think we were in initially—down to Nelson Hall. There was this huge, great big furor among the faculty that the trains going past Nelson Hall would interrupt the very sensitive scientific instrumentation that we were going to have in this building. So any move is difficult. And I think faculty are very anxious to discover new things and to do new things but when it comes to picking up and moving, they seem to say “That’s not what I want to do.”

CM: I know you had a role in bringing about the National Textile Center and I wondered if you could talk about that a bit. First of all, what is it?

BB: Let’s look at some history. When going through the archives here, Dean Hamby and his associate deans and others in the college had made a proposal to the federal government about establishing a—I don’t think they called it the “National Textile Center” but a center of excellence here at North Carolina State. And that had happened two years, three years previous to when I came. My feeling at that time—I was in Virginia—I said, well, “Who died and made NC State king? Why should they be the National Textile Center?” And the people at Clemson were saying the same thing and the people at Georgia Tech and the people at Auburn. So that idea was a great spark of an idea but it was never going to get through Congress because it simply did not have the support necessary to get funded. So then we came in and actually we had lost a—we had gone for a national science engineering laboratory. We were one of five college of engineering and college of textiles joint programs, we were one of the five recommended to be funded. But in that same recommendation was the electronics center here, the microelectronics center here on campus. So they won and we lost. But we had half a million dollars in real cash in the industry. We took that half a million dollars and did some of these projects ourselves and the industry liked them. And the thing that was different about them was they required interdisciplinary research activities; it was not going to be one faculty member with one student solving all the problems in the world. The key was that the problems in the industry—in any industry—were difficult. And they required different disciplines. So we were successful with that. Then I went to two of the key advisors that we had on that. One was Dr. Joe [unintelligible], who was Director of Research at DuPont and Jerry Cobourne [sp?], who was Director of Research at Milliken—big textile companies. I said “I’d like to expand this and pull in all these other universities” because we weren’t going to get funded by ourselves. We were going to have to use our political clout. And part of that also came from Frank Hart and Jimmy Suttle who—Frank I think at that time was vice president of research and he said “Why aren’t you guys out there working together?” So it started that way. There were some interesting dynamics. By pure chance, the four original universities were State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Auburn—all four of these had new deans or department heads within a two-year period. So we didn’t have any excess baggage about it. We all came in saying we want to do something different, and this was our opportunity to do something different.

CM: So what does the National Textile Center’s existence mean for NC State?

BB: Okay, sure. What it did was—we never had . . . whenever we would go to Congress or compete for contracts, everybody said, “Well, the textile industry, that’s a dying industry. Why would we want to worry about that? What are they doing? They make socks, shirts, and underwear.” They didn’t really understand what the capabilities were. So what we foresaw here was that, because of the political structure in Washington, that a lot the Congress, both legislators and senators, had seniority positions in Washington, and these people were mainly from the southeastern states. And collectively they had voting power. So if we could get funding from the federal government for research, faculty, and basically that’s it—fundamental research. And we made some agreements: We said we’re not going to build buildings. And we’re not going to duplicate anything we have. We’re going to conduct research, and we’re going to have a structure for this such that the industry puts input into and suggests the general areas in which we should be working, and we present proposals. And I think having NC State here made a huge difference because we could go to Washington and say, “Look, we don’t need a new building. We got a new building here. We don’t need new facilities. We’ve got them here.” And we were able to show the increase in all of the metrics we were talking about earlier. So this became kind of a rallying point, a flagpole to say “Look, it’s here. And the NTC’s going to be a virtual organization. We’re going to communicate by email and do everything that way.” It’s worked out real well. And it’s still going 15 years later. And we had contracts written about what percentage of the federal dollars would go elsewhere.

CM: You’ve done this already but I also wanted to touch on the mixed nature of Centennial Campus. How successful have you been in forming corporate partnerships or governmental partnerships?

BB: I think the mixed format has been the key to the Centennial Campus. We have been less successful with textiles. Unfortunately, we spent a lot of time in the early stages trying to TC squared—the Technology Clothing Textile Corporation—that they should move to the Centennial Campus. And Mr. Worsley particularly at that time was extremely helpful with the costs and all of that. But they felt that they could be in a park in Cary at a much lower price. And they are. And we work very closely with them but I think there still could have been a synergism that we both missed even though we had to go back and forth. And the other large one was Cotton, Incorporated. We thought—we worked extremely hard on Cotton, Incorporated. They brought their entire board and spent a day with us here. I really thought we were going to win that one. And the thing that their board had trouble with on the Centennial campus was their board at Cotton, Incorporated were farmers. And they own the land. They could build a building here but they would never own the land. And to farmers, that seemed to make a difference. We said, “We’ll give you a 99-year renewable lease. What more could you . . .” But there’s still that concept that was there. And again, we get along very well with Cotton, Incorporated and we spend a lot of time with them, but I would have hoped that all of those people would have been on the Centennial Campus themselves. BUT I think that the concept is great, that as we’ve expanded the College of Textiles now to include the Non-Woven Cooperative Research Center just across the street, it’s in a private building. It’s not in a state building.

CM: But the state owns the land?

BB: The state owns the land, yes. The three centers that we have here right now are tremendous partnerships. The NCRC—the Non-woven Cooperative Research Center—is just a fantastic center on campus, and the Non-woven industry has grown significantly in the US. That’s just a great story. And the TEPAC—Textile Protective Clothing Center—with Pyro Man and all of those things have been tremendous partnerships and that initial partnership started with DuPont—the mannequin Pyro Man was basically a DuPont invention. They gave us the mannequin; they actually gave us the inventor of that, the guy spent most of the time developing it, they loaned him to us for a two-year period, something like that.

CM: Just to clarify, what exactly is Pyro Man?

BB: Pyro Man is a burning mannequin. And if you want to on our way out, we can walk by and give you a feeling for it. It’s a mannequin that has heat sensors all over its body, and you dress this Pyro Man in various clothing, protective clothing and whatever else you have. You submit that to a very high, intense flame for a period of time. You take the flame away and all of these sensors are connected to a computer. And so you can then see an image of Pyro Man which is printed out in colors that show whether there would be first-, second-, or third-degree burns. Very, very highly successful. In fact, that, as I understand it, that center was the first center to be funded by the Homeland Security Act.

CM: You already talked some about the problems when you first came here. Were there any other challenges you faced presented by the move of the college to Centennial Campus?

BB: No, you know, I was amazed at that. First of all, when we started this whole operation, they had a young man that came out of Mr. Worsley’s office, probably out of Charlie Leffler’s office—he was the university negotiator with all of these contractors and sub-contractors. And, Chad, I thought he was 16 years old. I’ve never seen anybody look so young and we looked at him and said “How is he going to be able to negotiate with these people?” They’ll eat him up. And it wasn’t that way at all. This young man was talented and I’m sorry I can’t think of his last name. His first name was Craig and he’s still around campus. It was just a—he did a phenomenal job of doing that. The other thing that I did here in the college is we assigned one of the associate deans, Perry Grady, to do nothing but get us to the new campus. That was his assignment. And that was a great assignment because he took it very seriously and did it extremely well. But that also took the pressure off of me. Instead of having individuals complaining to me all the time, they had somewhere to go, and Perry and I would meet daily almost. Sometimes we would end up shouting at each other at the end of the day if we had different feelings about what we were doing, and then we’d go drink a beer. I mean, we were good friends. So that helped. And there are a few interesting things that happened. We would come over frequently just to look and to bring prospective donors. “Look, if you put up your equipment here, look at this laboratory,” and all of that. And we came up the elevator one day and got off at the atrium—have you seen our atrium?

CM: No sir.

BB: It’s a great big atrium and it was painted Carolina blue. It was as—I said “What in the world! Perry, get the get the paint changed!”

He said “ I know, I didn’t do this.”

“It’s not the correct color!” [laughing]

And you can imagine—and it wasn’t the right color; the painter had made an error and had to repaint. And it’s a huge, big—the university holds a lot of functions here in that atrium. So that was an interesting thing. We complained a little about the number of parking—that’s another area—faculty would complain about parking spaces. And I always thought we were going to have enough parking. George Worsley said “We’ll have 200 parking slots in that parking lot.” After we got over here and we were probably using about 100 of them, someone went out and counted them. And we didn’t have 200; we only had 180. So, I swear, this is true—it seems that way to me—they just took those 180 slots and made 200 out of them! We have the narrowest parking slots of anybody on campus [laughing]. And I swear they did it that way. The other thing that happened that might be of interest historically was when the bids were finally going to be opened. And they were opened two weeks later than they had planned it. Cheryl and I were out with some friends skiing out west. And I told Perry “Don’t call me. I don’t want to know.” We worried about it; we bid everything separate: the building, thebridge that goes across here to the research center. That was bid separately. All the carpeting and everything else was bid separately because we didn’t think we were going to have enough money to do what we had to do. So I told Perry, “Please don’t call me. When I get home, we’ll worry about that.” Well, the phone rings, just like yours the other day, quite early in the morning because we’re out west and he’s here [laughing]. I said “Perry, why did you call me?”

“No, no, no, no. The bids came in at 1.3 mil—we got everything we wanted and we still have 1.3 million dollars left over.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful. Begin to think about how we can spend that.”

By the time I got back to campus, George Worsley told me that wasn’t my $1.3 million; it was his. And then I think somebody downtown in the treasurer’s office said “No, George, it’s not yours either; it’s the state’s” [laughing]. And by the time we were finished—you know, all the problems you run into with construction—that disappeared. And then the final thing on the move was they had another—Carl, I can’t think of his last name either. He was a super guy, who coordinated the move to make it as easy as possible. And this was the largest move, at the time, that the university had ever had, taking this whole college and moving it to a new facility. And everything just seemed to work out perfectly. We had very few problems. We did it in two phases. We decided in January of 1991 we would hold all classes over here, but we were not going to be able to get into our laboratories. So the laboratories were still held in Nelson, excuse me, Nelson and David Clark. During that summer, we’d bring those laboratories over. But he did a fantastic job.

CM: Carl?

BB: Yes. He had a calming influence and the faculty felt comfortable. So the university were very helpful in doing all this.

CM: I’m going to stop and flip the tape now so that it won’t cut you off in the middle of a thought.

BB: Okay. Fine.

Side B

CM: Alright, we’re recording again. As president of the Institute for Textile Technology (ITT), you helped bring that organization to Centennial Campus in 2000. What was that process like and how has it changed things for ITT and the College of Textiles?

BB: Yes. What I did is, after stepping aside here, and realizing that the industry was going to be entirely differently structured from the 21 st century forward, that—12 ½ years was long enough for me to be dean here. And so I stepped aside then. And in that time that I had planned on getting out of the way of the new dean here. And I was asked to be the interim president of ITT. I did that for a year. And at that time we began to set up the mechanisms of would it ever be possible for them to come down here. But those decisions were really made after I had been up there for that one-year presidency. But since I had been at ITT for so many years, what they did is they started those negotiations to come down. The dean asked me to represent the university’s side, and the trustees up there asked me to represent ITT’s side. I said, “That puts me in the middle.”

They said, “Yeah, that’s exactly where we want you to be.”

Mainly because I have great love for both organizations. I wasn’t going to see either one of them taken advantage of or anything like that. So we had a lot to do with that n=but only from the viewpoint of answering questions and being able to respond. Never out in the open. That was always done between the dean here and the president up there at that time.

CM: How does that arrangement benefit State?

BB: Oh, it’s great. ITT was another one of those that I thought ought to be down here when I was dean and proposed it very early, and they didn’t see the advantage of it at the time. I was disappointed but not surprised. But as the industry has changed, then I thought ITT would benefit greatly by combining resources. We talk about the advantages: ITT has a separate center on campus and has a lot of autonomy, a for-profit operation off campus as well. That allows ITT to use all of the resources here at the university. In addition, we picked up the 20 to 30 MS graduate students that they had in Charlottesville. They just brought them down here. So that was a great influx, a huge influx on percentage basis, of graduate students that we had at the college. And we picked up some of ITT’s graduate program philosophies that were different from ours here at NC State. I always complained to our faculty that I thought we had a great undergraduate program, I thought we had a great PhD program, [but] I thought that the masters program at timed seemed like our little stepchildren. They didn’t get the same amount of focus. And ITT’s masters program, because it’s a two-year research program, allows us to do that in that area.

CM: In a general way, where do you see the College of Textiles being in its evolution? What do you see as the current state of things and where do you see it in, for example, another 25 years?

BB: I get more excited about the college than ever just because it’s changing so rapidly. You know, the US textile industry has lost much of its manufacturing basis. But New England lost much of its manufacturing basis to the Southeast. What happened is they moved from Lowell, Massachusetts to Spartanburg, South Carolina or Greensboro, North Carolina. And so that same phenomenon is going on around the world. Yet the headquarters can still be here. The largest market in the world for textiles is here in the United States. And so our philosophy now is to still be working in manufacturing but your plants aren’t going to be in North Carolina; they’re going to be in the Far East or they’re going to be in Central or South America somewhere. When you do that, that says that you put a lot more emphasis on design, a lot more emphasis on supply chains, on finances, on how are things going to work. That way how do you control all of these—on logistics. How do you control all of these things and bring them together? And you still can’t overlook manufacturing because manufacturing is what you’re producing to sell. And you’ve got to do that at the lowest price, and it doesn’t matter if you’re doing it at the lowest price here or you’re doing it somewhere else. To me, it’s and expansion. And an evolution. And going to be even more exciting in the future.

CM: Relatedly, where do you se Centennial Campus in its development?

BB: I think it’s certainly still in its infancy. I don’t know how long—I know I’ve heard how long it’s going to take us to build out the campus. We’ve built on one-tenth of the campus at this point. So if you’re looking from 1990 to 2006, 16 years to build on one-tenth, you can do the arithmetic. Now there may be a dynamic increase in the rate of change, the rate of build-up, but I’ve been very pleased with it. And the people who come to campus and haven’t been here, even if they haven’t been here in a year, they drive in and they’re surprised. “Oh, look at all the new buildings!” To me—I need to say one other thing that I think is very, very important, Chad, perhaps the most important thing. I saw the Centennial Campus at first as a physical location. And I think most people at the university saw it as a physical location. But as we got into it, it’s a philosophy. It’s a philosophy that says that academics and government agencies and industries can work side by side very effectively and can augment and supplement their capabilities. And can do so in a way that we don’t have to worry about intellectual property. Industry doesn’t have to worry about us stealing—if they don’t want us know what’s going on behind their walls, the can just lock the door. And we don’t know. On the other hand, the ability to use the knowledge base of faculty and researchers and staff and graduate students, undergraduate students is phenomenal. So that to me has permeated all of NC State. I don’t see that dividing line of saying, “Hey, you’ve got a new campus.” The Centennial Campus is this philosophy that I can’t see anybody fighting it. As I look at what’s going on around campus in general, it’s just been a philosophy that’s been accepted. And I didn’t see it on any drawing board; I didn’t see it on any mission statements, any objectives. It’s just that as we got into it—like a lot of research—you get into it and all of the sudden you find out that there’s more to it than those four walls that we were talking about initially.

CM: To sum up, was there anything you wanted to add?

BB: I don’t think so. You asked the right questions and you allowed me to ramble and I’m afraid what the written context is going to look like because I didn’t talk in short sentences. But I hope that what comes across is my enthusiasm, that it was a great idea seen by some great visionaries. I know Bruce Poulton was one and I know that Claude McKinney was another and I know there were a lot of other people who saw that. And I was just very happy to be able to see how the concept of the Centennial Campus would fit a college like the College of Textiles very well because we were already integrated with the textile industry. We worked very closely with them. So that was not new. And then to have the opportunity to start from scratch and build this . . . . In fact, it was kind of interesting that the faculty said “We’re going to be isolated over there and it’s going to be a terrible move and all that.” Then when the College of Engineering began to talk seriously about moving over here, people said “You know, we kind of liked being isolated over here. We had our own nice little deal over here and now these outsiders are going to come in.” It’s delightful to have engineering and everyone else because the more students, the more activities, the more services you get, the energy is created then.

CM: Thank you so much for talking with us.

BB: Okay. Great.

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