Don Barry, lecturer in Economic History and Director of International Student Recruitment, passed away peacefully whilst on holiday in Spain on 1st December, 2017. Don had a long association with Cardiff University, stretching for nearly 50 years until his retirement in 2012. During this time, Don established himself as an inspirational teacher and mentor though he will be especially remembered for the key role he played in developing international student recruitment.
Don was born on the 22nd December 1944 in Merthyr Tydfil. He attended Quaker’s Yard Grammar School before graduating in 1965 from University College Cardiff with a degree in Economics. Following this, he embarked, as a research student, on a two-year Masters programme in Economics at UCC, and it was during this time, some 6 months from completion of the programme, that he was appointed as an Assistant Lecturer in Economic History.
In the years that followed Don, together with his colleague, Colin Baber, established economic history as a key component of the economics degree programme at UCC. His lectures, on British inter- and post-war economic history, were always very popular with students both for the interest they encouraged in these important stages of the British economy but also for the eloquence and enthusiasm with which they were delivered. In the days of ‘chalk and talk’, Don had the ability to engage students with his clear and incisive analysis, usually lecturing without reference to notes, but always giving lectures carefully structured and rich in anecdotes and humour. Don was a supportive dissertation supervisor, always encouraging, seeing the potential in people even if they couldn’t perhaps see it for themselves. It was with great pride that Don saw a number of his students going on on to achieve considerable success in both academia and industry, a pride not for himself but for what the students themselves had achieved.
Following the merger between UCC and UWIST in 1989, Don moved into the Cardiff Business School and it was at this time that his role began to change. At that time, academics involved in international student recruitment were something of a rarity. The then Director (Dean) of the Business School, Professor Roger Mansfield, felt that the School should adopt a more pro-active approach in recruiting international students, especially to postgraduate programmes, and in 1995 Don was given that task of taking this forward. Initially, he did this alongside his academic role within the School, but as the job grew through Don’s success in recruiting students, so he tended to focus more and more on that role until he eventually became the Business School’s Director of International Student Recruitment.
These days, international student recruitment is a standard feature of Business Schools worldwide. At that time, however, the notion of academics going to other countries to recruit students was a novel idea but it was one that Don made his own. The success he achieved in encouraging potential students to apply to Cardiff Business School, rather than a competitor institution, was exceptional especially in the key markets of India and China. This was built, in part, on the rapport and friendship he established with those who ran the student recruitment agencies abroad but, equally, it reflected the relationships he developed with the staff in those agencies – people who usually tended to get very little recognition for the work they did. Of course, the eloquence and enthusiasm Don displayed in lectures served him well in the presentations he gave at recruitment fairs and elsewhere. Those who have witnessed these presentations can testify to the enthusiastic response of his audience with much clapping and banging of tables in appreciation
Don’s involvement in student recruitment was, however, not simply one of promoting the Business School in other countries. A significant part of his time was taken up with the pastoral side of the role. Don was always available whether abroad or in Cardiff to talk to current students, potential students, and their parents. People would often be waiting to catch him in hotel lobbies, and would even turn up at his breakfast table, with a litany of requests all of which he would endeavour to deal with. Similarly, in Cardiff, it would be unusual not to see students queuing outside his office door waiting to discuss one matter or another.
The significance of the success Don achieved in international student recruitment for the Business School was a key contributor to the success the School has subsequently achieved. It was the increased resources that came with vibrant international student numbers that enabled the School to invest in an academic faculty that ranks so highly in international research league tables. He was moreover, instrumental in changing the nature of international student recruitment with his involvement, through advice and encouragement, in the establishment of one of the top student recruitment agencies in China and the development and expansion of others in India.
Don’s association with Cardiff University was not limited to academic matters and for many years he enjoyed playing cricket for one of the University staff sides as both a strong, effective and reliable opening batter and a useful medium-pace bowler. It would be fair to say, however, that, as he got older, the keystone of his cricketing prowess became one of caution, eschewing the quick single, and being rather prone to running out his club captain batting at the other end. As a bowler, his very short and slow run up often lulled the opposition into a false sense of security, proving to be effective rather than elegant. Don was, however, always good company on the field (and afterwards), and games were always more entertaining when he was in the side.
Don was proudly Welsh, but especially proud of his Valleys roots and what he saw as the integrity and decency of the mining communities in which he grew up. Whether it was lecturing to students, working abroad in recruiting students, or on the cricket field, Don enjoyed work and life with total enthusiasm, an enjoyment that was transmitted to colleagues and students alike and his mischievous sense of fun will be greatly missed.
Don is survived by his wife, Lynda, their children, Jonathan and Caroline, and their families.