Robert A. Barnes, PhD

Portrait of Robert and Betty Barnes in their home.

As COTC’s first president, Robert A. Barnes laid the foundation for the newly chartered technical school. In retirement, his legacy continues with a planned gift and membership in the 1971 Legacy Society.

During the eight years that Robert A. Barnes, PhD, led COTC, he laid the foundation for the newly chartered school that has endured for 50 years and counting. From 1971-1979, COTC enrollment climbed to 1,108; 17 new programs were initiated; the campus blueprint went from one to three buildings; and the first off-campus classes were offered in Coshocton, Mount Vernon and Reynoldsburg at the Ohio Fire Academy.

Before the Cleveland native was orchestrating the launch of a two-year technical college in central Ohio, Barnes earned a BS at Miami University (Ohio), studied at Julliard School of Music, received an MA from Columbia University and completed his PhD at The Ohio State University. His early career spanned many years in higher education administration, including serving as the first dean of Ohio State Newark when he took the reins as dual administrator of both Ohio State Newark and COTC when the technical college opened in 1971.

“Without exception, everywhere in Ohio where a technical college was sharing facilities with a university regional campus, there was strife between the two,” said Barnes. “We began immediately to structure a workable arrangement that would make it possible for the two institutions to occupy the same campus with peace and respect. The approach was highly successful with the added advantage of shared staff creating not only respect but significant cost savings for both institutions.” The cost-shared relationship is still in operation today and is oftentimes considered the model for co-located institutions.

AS COTC’s first president, it was also critical to Barnes that he be absolutely committed to COTC’s mission. Thus, he worked with many local industries to develop programs that would meet the needs of employers in the area. Then he hired faculty with industrial experience — many fresh from the workforce. This winning combination was endorsed by employees and embraced by students, as headcount swelled 905% during Barnes’ tenure.

Barnes retired from higher education in 1979 but continues to be an ardent supporter of the college he helped shape. Today he lives in Reynoldsburg with his wife, Betty. The Barnes were inducted into COTC’s 1971 Legacy Society in 2021.

“Now in my mid-90s,” Barnes recently shared, “as I look back on things, I must admit that I’ve probably taken a little more pride, comfort and joy in the work at the Newark campus than with any of the other challenges I undertook.”