Dean Emeritus Robert A. Barnhardt

College of Textiles, North Carolina State University

Born: September 21, 1937 West Pittston, PA
Member of Faculty July 1, 1987- June 30, 2005
Served as President, Institute of Textile Technology 2000
Served as Interim Provost, NCSU 2003
Served as Interim Chancellor, NCSU 2004

Robert A. Barnhardt graduated from the public school system of West Pittston, PA and matriculated in the Bachelor of Science program in textile engineering at the Philadelphia College of Textiles.  He spent summers and part-time during the academic year working for Burlington Industries, Philadelphia.  He earned the B.S. degree in 1959.  He worked two summers for Chemstrand, Pensacola, Florida. Bob married Shirley Sandrock in 1961.   After a short industrial experience with Milliken in Pendleton, SC, he entered the Institute of Textile Technology, Charlottesville, VA where he earned the Master of Science degree in 1961.  In 1961, he worked for DuPont in Wilmington and in 1962, with J.P. Stevens in New York City.  At the time, ITT was an industry-funded institute with a two-year Masters program and twenty students funded by sponsoring companies.  Bob returned to Philadelphia Textiles and served on the faculty and as chairman of the Department of Textiles 1964 -1966. (1,2) The wide experience during his BS and MS years gave him a better understanding of the diversity of the textile industry. (5)

A Textile Design Major was developed and introduced using a combination of current and new faculty plus part-time professional practitioners.  During this time, the faculty developed a core “Textile” curriculum for textile management students. (5)

Institute of Textile Technology

Barnhardt was recruited to become Dean and Director of Education for ITT in 1966. Students in the Master’s program left campus each summer and worked in industry.  That left Bob with his summers essentially free to either work in industry or enhance his educational credentials.  His neighbor, former Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, professor Frank Flora invited Bob to attend his summer class in school administration. “It was his first introduction to the Curry, and he liked what he saw.”  So, in addition to his duties at ITT, he entered the masters of education program across town at the University of Virginia.   He earned the Ed. D. degree by enrolling and completing the Curry’s new higher education administration program.  “I entered the program with experience in a very small environment.  We took no public money.  We could experiment with curricula and try new methods of teaching.  Students were on full fellowships.”  In the Curry program, Bob learned about how things work in a public institution – the legal aspects, the history, the organizational and financial structures, curriculum issues, and more.  ‘It really broadened my exposure.’  Bob took what he learned at Curry and continued up the career ladder.  He was promoted to vice president of research and education at ITT, then executive vice president and chief operating officer. (3)

Every aspect of ITT improved significantly during this time period.  The improvements came through the activities of a committed faculty and staff.  Some of those achievements are listed below:

  1. Membership expanded to the largest base in history and included, Burlington Industries, J. P. Stevens, Milliken and Springs Industries.
  2. Four polyester companies (Celanese, DuPont, Eastman, and Monsanto) became supporting members.
  3. The academic relationship with the UVA School of Engineering and Science was changed to the Darden School of Graduate Business Administration.
  4. Graduate students became a more integral part of the research program of the Institute.
  5. SACS (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accredited ITT for the first time
  6. The first women were admitted to the graduate program.
  7. The Industrial Fellows Program was introduced.
  8. The number of graduate students was increased from 10 to 15 per year.
  9. The academic program was changed to a trimester system so that the intersession concept could be employed.
  10. Outward Bound experiences for new graduate students were introduced to build leadership and teamwork within the student body.
  11. A highly successful 3-week Executive Program Management of Textile Technology was developed as well as a 2-week Principles of Textile Technology program.
  12. A new classroom building was constructed.
  13. International study tours of the “best” manufacturing plants in the world were introduced to the membership and led by ITT faculty.
  14. One of the most successful changes made was a revision of the format for the Biannual Meetings of the Board of Trustees and Technical Committee.
  15. While serving as V.P. for Education and Research, sixty-nine Research reports were issued by the staff of ITT.

In recognition for these and other accomplishments, Barnhardt was named a Fellow of the Textile Institute in 1982.

At some point in time, Dr. Chuck Tewksbury (President of ITT) began to focus more of his efforts on outside activities including relationships with membership, while Barnhardt focused more on the operational activities of the Institute.  They worked well together as a team.

Dean of Textiles – North Carolina State University

Dean Dame S. Hamby announced his retirement from the College of Textiles would take place on June 30, 1987.  Immediately, a worldwide search began for a new dean of the College.  Barnhardt was encouraged to apply for the position.  Bob became dean on July 1, 1987.  The College had secured funding for an entirely new building on the new Centennial Campus.  However, just before Barnhardt arrived, Dean Hamby called a meeting of the College Faculty and explained how many issues were unresolved with regards to the new campus.  On June 26, the faculty voted to ask to remain on North Campus in renovated buildings. (4, page 184).  Upon his arrival on campus, Bob met with Chancellor Bruce Poulton and others and was assured that the problems addressed by Hamby would be solved.  Soon afterward, Bob explained ‘That’s the price you pay for being on the cutting edge of something new and exciting.”  (4, page 184)

A New Building

Once Dean Barnhardt was assured that Textiles would be followed by the College of Engineering with other opportunities for research collaboration, the faculty came on board and looked forward to a new College.  The planning documents developed by the Carley Capital Group revealed a master plan that would capture the unique beauty of the rolling landscape. (4, page 185).  Hammill-Walter Associates, Inc., the primary architects completed plans.  A final review took place on September 30, 1987.  Construction bids were received on March 15, 1988.  Groundbreaking ceremonies were held May 17, 1988.  The project was underway!

Groundbreaking for the new College of Textiles, May 17, 1988.  From left to right, Professor Perry L. Grady; Chancellor Bruce Poulton; Dean Bob Barnhardt; Dean Emeritus Dame Hamby; Faculty Senator and Professor Anne Clapp; Tompkins Textile Student Council President, Martha Lambeth; North Carolina Textile Foundation President, Duke Kimbrell; and D. Marshall Y. Cooper, Jr., President of the North Carolina Textile Manufacturer’s Association. Courtesy Perry L. Grady

The new building was authorized with a state expenditure of $26.5 million and later raised to $33 million to equip the building.  The 298, 000 gross square feet would yield 199,624 new square feet for undergraduate programs -34%, research and graduate programs-31%, College support programs-17% and administrative support-12%.  Industry would be served with 6% of the space.

The move into the new building began January 1, 1991.  Spring semester opened with lectures held in the new building.  Laboratories were not completed in time for many of the classes, so students traveled back to Nelson and David Clark Labs for laboratories.  The new schedule for classes was shifted 30 minutes later than those on Main Campus in order to allow travel time between campuses.

The new building was officially dedicated on March 22, 1991.  North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt who walked through the old buildings in the mid-1980s and saw firsthand the poor condition of the buildings was there to see the new complex. (4)

Reorganization of Departments and Programs

The College began a reorganization study shortly after the arrival of Dean Barnhardt.  The new arrangement saw the creation of two departments:  Textile Engineering, Chemistry, and Science (TECS); and Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management (TATM).  One of the first actions by the new Dean was the “suggestion” that all administrators including the Dean would teach at least one course each year.  A new Ph.D. in Textile Technology Management was created in 1991 in order to prepare managers of the future – managers who would be required to manage increasingly more complex technical operations.  The first graduate completed all requirements in 1993.  A new Master of Science degree in textile engineering was created in 1993 to support the increased growth of research.  The first graduates completed degree requirements in 1995.

The Eli Whitney Program was created in the late 1980s to recruit talented students who would study management and languages and have the maturity to think globally and have the language skills to succeed in international business.  International collaboration was also stressed as visitors from universities and research institutes in other countries joined research programs at the college. Some students were able to complete internships in another country. (4)


The National Textile Center, a consortium of four southeastern universities was created in 1994.  Congress provided $2 million to each university the first few years.  Other textile schools soon asked for a share. Eventually, Philadelphia, Cornell and Southeast Massachusetts, Dartmouth received funding.

The National Textile Center is announced.  Chancellor Larry Monteith, US Congressman David Price, and Dean Barnhardt share the stage with an industrial representative, Charles J. Buie, Jr., president of the North Carolina Textile Manufacturer’s Association.  NCSU Archives

The Center for Research on Textile Protection and Comfort was established in new laboratories. (4, page 214)

Consortium for Research and Development on Supercritical Fluid Technology in Textile Processing was created in 1995. (4, page 215)

The Hosiery Technology Consortium formed in 1998 with 35 members. (4, page 216)

Mars Mission Research Spin-Offs with three-dimensional weaving and braiding led to 3-Tex, Inc. in 1993. (4, page 217)

Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center was organized in 1991. (4, page 218)

Biomedical Research with more than 17 faculty members involved. (4, page 220)

Apparel and Design Research was organized in the various apparel and design studios. (4, pages 262-264)

Management studies were eventually granted a separate space in the student computer room in the corner of the fourth floor adjacent to the library (4, page 264)

In summary, during Barnhardt’s deanship, significant progress was made in each of the University’s goals for the various Colleges.  For Textiles, those goals included:

  1. Undergraduate enrollment grew by 10% and graduate enrollment grew by 35%.  All of this while the domestic industry underwent a downward slide as companies moved operations offshore.
  2. Student credit hours generated rose from the bottom quartile in the nine academic colleges to the top quartile.
  3. The Textile Engineering program was accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).
  4. A Ph. D. program in Textile Technology Management was approved and the first students graduated.
  5. The NC Textile Foundation funded Eli Whitney program (study abroad with a language minor).
  6. The Centennial Scholars Program was approved and funded by the NC Textile Foundation.  The value of each scholarship is set at $50,000 over four years.  Ten are awarded each year.
  7. The College awarded more than 50% of all undergraduate textile degrees and 67% of all graduate degrees in the country.
  8. The annual research expenditures increased by a factor of ten.
  9. CRAFTM – the Center for Apparel, Fiber, and Textile – Manufacture was formed with $500, 000 from industry.   This was the forerunner of the National Textile Center.
  10. The National Textile Center was created and funded by the US Department of Commerce.
  11. The Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center was created (the first NSF (National Science Foundation) center in the College).
  12. Based on research grants, the faculty became one of the highest producers of research dollars /FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) faculty on campus.
  13. All administrators taught at least one course per year.
  14. In 1987, the corpus of the Textile Foundation was $8.5 million.  In 2000, the corpus was approximately $30 million.
  15. In addition to the $33 million received from the State of North Carolina, and with the help of the Textile Foundation, $3 million was raised for Naming Opportunities in the Textile Complex and an additional $8 million was given through donations of equipment or heavily discounted prices for equipment.
  16. The William A. Klopman, CIBA/Geigy, and Joseph D. Moore Distinguished Professorships were established and filled.

In 1997-98, it became apparent to Barnhardt that a new century would bring major changes to the textile and allied industries in the U. S.  The College petitioned the Foundation to fund a study of the potential impact on the College.  Jerome E. Link was hired to conduct this study.  He produced a document, “The College in the 21st Century.” This became a working document for faculty input.

In 1998, it was recognized that a new Dean with a different skill set would be essential for the continued progress of the College.  After discussions with the Provost, Chancellor, and Foundation leaders, Barnhardt agreed to step aside as dean at the end of 1999.  The new dean would focus    on the non-manufacturing aspects of the industry.  This would require the infusion of five or more new faculty positions (an increase of 12.5%), and these faculties would have to be hired very quickly. The College could not wait for normal attrition although approximately five positions would come open over the next several years.  Barnhardt proposed a financial model to accomplish these goals; and the Provost accepted the proposal.  This new direction provided the TATM Department with the opportunity to develop new programs with appropriate faculty.

Professional Recognition

Barnhardt was honored by at least eleven organizations over the years.  Notable among those were: the AMY Award, Young Menswear Association, “Industry Leadership and Achievement Award in 1998; the American Textiles International ‘s Top Ten Industry Leaders in 1989; and Phi Kappa Phi, Honorary Membership in 1990.  In 1988, The Textile Institute of the UK awarded him The Institute Medal, the oldest award of the Institute, inaugurated in 1921. The award recognized distinguished service to the industry in general and to the industry.  This award is made to an Institute member only.  He was named a Fellow of the Textile Institute in 1982.

He served as an invited member from the United States of the Groupe Europeen d’échange d’expériences sur la Direction de la Recherch Textile (GEDRT).  This is a group of research directors at universities with textile programs and textile research centers who are based in Europe. (1)

Centennial Celebration 1999 and Retirement

The opportunity to celebrate a century of textile education approached as 1998 drew to a close.  Many on the faculty were totally unaware when Dean Barnhardt called a meeting of his staff to tell them about the event.  Gary Mock was the very un-official historian in the College.  His interest over the past few years was in documenting the development of textile wet finishing technology.  He wrote a number of articles for the textile industry’s trade magazines.  Alfred Dockery of America’s Textiles International offered to write a cover story about the event.   Bob asked Mock to be the lead man and write material for the article.  The commemorative issue appeared in January 1999 with a cover story featuring three men who distinguished themselves outside the industry: General Hugh Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; John Edwards, the recently elected U.S. senator from North Carolina; and John Tesh, an entertainer.  The cover asked “What Do They Have in Common?” They all attended the College of Textiles and went on to have successful careers elsewhere.  The College of Textiles is a great place to start no matter where your career path leads.  Many other events took place that year, all organized by Dean Barnhardt and his staff.  One of the most special was the celebration held October 8.  Derek Close, president of the NC Textile Foundation, announced the creation of a new Centennial Scholars program funded with an initial endowment of $1,250,000, the largest endowment received to that date. (4, page 226)

The Three Deans, David Chaney, Dame Hamby and Bob Barnhardt, signal “100 Years.” Courtesy of Southern Textile News.

The century of progress closed on December 31, 1999, with the retirement of Robert A. Barnhardt from his post as dean.  In recognition of accomplishments, his friends contributed money to establish the “Barnhardt Leadership Endowment” to enrich the holdings of the Burlington Textile Library. (4, page 228)

A new Dean, A. Blanton Godfrey joined the College on July 1, 2000 as the sixth Dean in history.

The Interim Man

Following administrative retirements, it is especially useful to the organization to call in expertise to smooth a transition between permanent appointees.  People have to get used to change.  Bob was called at least three different times in those first years after retirement. (2)

President of the Institute of Textile Technology 2000:  Following the retirement of the president of ITT, Charles Tewksbury, and a debilitating injury to his successor, Bob filled in while another search was performed.  

During the promised year, the following milestones were reached:

  1. Revised ITT membership dues structure significantly.
  2. Formed ITT-3, a for profit subsidiary of ITT which allowed Institute personnel to consult with non-member corporations.
  3. Expanded the membership eligibility to include NAFTA countries.
  4. Formed Textile Economic Competitiveness research and service group within the organization.
  5. Conducted a self-study for a successful 10-year SACS visitation in 2001.
  6. Led the search for a full-time president of ITT, resulting in the employment of Dr. W. Gilbert O’Neal.

The Years 2001 and 2002

After completing a year as President of ITT, Barnhardt returned to the College of Textiles as a professor in the TATM department.  During these years, Milliken and Company approached him to develop a special course for their middle management associates.  Bob approached Dr. Robert B. Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Supply Chain management at NCSU.  Together they developed a weeklong Executive Program taught at Milliken University at the Spartanburg campus.  The curriculum began with a two-day introduction to the concept of supply chain theories, taught by Dr. Handfield, including several case studies of supply chain problems developed during Barnhardt’s years of consultation with members of the textile industry.   All associates were assigned to a team that spent the next three weeks working on a project to improve the “supply chain” problems within their areas of responsibility within their respective businesses.  At the end of the three weeks, the entire group reassembled for an additional two days of sharing and development of action plans for continued improvement.  

The Years 2002 and 2003


Interim NCSU Provost 2003: In early January, the Provost, Stuart L. Cooper and two Executive Vice provosts at NCSU departed from their assigned responsibilities.  Chancellor Fox asked Barnhardt to be Interim until a permanent Provost could be identified.  The morale in the Office was low as the faculty Senate censured the Chancellor.  Barnhardt’s approach was to simultaneously rebuild the confidence of the Office of Provost and then conduct the normal activities of promotion and tenure decisions during the spring semester.  A new budget was prepared.  Barnhardt remembered this as one of the most challenging assignments he held.  James Oblinger, Dean of Agriculture was named Provost effective July 1.

A “Resolution of Commendation” by the Faculty Senate was adopted in support of his efforts during that trying time.

Barnhardt and Handfield offered a second one-week Executive Program Cycle Time Optimization.  Several teaching faculty from the College of Textiles and the College of Management also taught.  Approximately 1000 associates joined the program over a two-year span.

Interim NCSU Chancellor 2004:

While on a study tour to the Far East, University of North Carolina President Molly Broad called to ask Barnhardt to step in as Interim Chancellor following the departure of Marye Ann Fox to University of San Diego.  He met with President Broad and accepted provided that his wife, Shirl agreed.  Shirl would be highly visible at many of the University functions.  The assignment was a delight, since the University was in a period of considerable improvement.  The only crisis arose during a parking lot incidence when two non-students were shot and killed in a parking lot adjacent to the football stadium during a game.    Restrictions for parking lots were put in place.  The interim Chancellor survived. James Oblinger was named Chancellor.

Throughout these years, including the time spent in the Office of the Provost and the Office of Chancellor, Barnhardt continued to teach at least one course each semester and at times taught two courses per semester.  Barnhardt taught at least one course each year for 44 consecutive years, a fact that made him most proud.  In 2005, Barnhardt retired from the university.  His teaching career spanned 44 years from 1961-2005.

Watauga Medal 2008

The Watauga Medal was established in 1975 by the University Board of Trustees as the highest non-academic honor awarded by the university. The Watauga Medal is awarded annually to no more than three people not currently employed by the university, who have rendered notable and significant services for the advancement of teaching, research and extension functions of the university.

The medal was presented to Dean Barnhardt at the Founders’ Day Dinner on March 9, 2009.

Shirl and Bob Barnhardt enjoy the moment at the Watauga Medal Ceremony

The Fun Times

There were a number of fun times with Bob.  He admitted he was an introvert in an extrovert’s job.  After reading this biography, you can see he interacted with many people and was called back into duty time and time again.  

Several of us asked Bob to tell us about one of his after dinner tricks – The Magic Napkin and Cork Trick.  After a good dinner as people sat around and continued talking, somehow, someone would get Bob to show us the trick and tell us how it came about.  He said it was at a five-day short course at ITT that one of the participants asked for $1.00 from each person at the table and he would show them how to get a cork out of the inside of an empty bottle of wine without using any utensils on the table.  No knife, fork or spoon.  Everyone knew you could push a cork back into the bottle but how to get it out again?  Bob learned that trick very well.   The trick was to twist a napkin into the bottle and form a small “cup.”  When that happens, shake the bottle gently and allow the cork to settle in that cup in the napkin.  Then when you gently pull the napkin, the cork is squeezed inside the twist, slides along the curve of the bottle and pops out the neck with the rest of the napkin.  At a family gathering in Ft. Lauderdale, he did the trick and even made his mother give him a dollar.  She was not happy.

Bob trapping a cork and amazing his guests at a restaurant.  Photo courtesy of Keith Beck.


  1. https://d/
  4. Mock, Gary N., A Century of Progress The Textile Program, North Carolina State University, 1899-1999, North Carolina Textile Foundation, Inc., Raleigh, N.C., 2001.
  5. Robert A. Barnhardt, Personal communication, December 2016.