Department of History

Varner Hall, Room 415
371 Varner Dr.
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-3510
fax: (248) 370-3528

V. John Barnard

Professor Emeritus

Family and friends are mourning the loss of Jack Barnard, who passed away at age 82 on April 19, 2015, in Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Jack was born in November, 1932, and raised in Wichita, Kansas along with his two sisters, Mary and Joanne. After graduating from Wichita North High School, Jack enrolled  in Oberlin College where he found and fell in love with his wife of 61 years, Joan Pennock Barnard. After Jack and Joan graduated from Oberlin in 1955, they moved to Chicago where Jack enrolled in a Ph.D program in American history.  Jack's first experience behind the lectern was in the History Department at Ohio State University from 1960-1964, during which time he completed his dissertation (From Evangelicalism to Progressivism at Oberlin College, 1866-1917, published by Ohio State University Press).

In the midst of collecting academic degrees and getting careers underway, Jack and Joan also started a family, beginning with Bruce in 1954, Elizabeth in l957, and Stephen in l963.

After Ohio State, Jack, Joan and their family moved north to suburban Detroit, where Jack accepted a position as assistant professor in the History Department at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Jack remained on the Oakland faculty for 33 years until his retirement in 1997. He served two terms as Department Chair (1974-84 and 1987-90) and was president of the faculty union from 1987-89. In the words of former Oakland Press managing editor Garry Gilbert, Jack was, "a model professor-always approachable, generous with his time and perceptive in his criticisms.  He possesses a vast knowledge of American History, loves to talk about all aspects of the past and present, and employs a disarming sense of humor.  He never displays flashes of arrogance so prevalent among holders of the Ph.D. whom I have met in other programs and at other universities.

Popular and engaging in the classroom, and a well respected department chair and faculty leader, Professor Barnard was also an accomplished scholar who published numerous articles and book reviews, many on the history of education in America as well as U.S. labor history.  He authored two books, Walter Reuther and the Rise of the Auto Workers, and American Vanguard: the United Auto Workers During the Reuther Years, 1935-1970, which earned the State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan in 2005.

Soon after their retirements, Jack and Joan moved to Orleans, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Almost immediately, Jack's administrative skills were recruited to assist First Parish Brewster Unitarian Universalist Church in an historic facility restoration project and search for a new minister.  Once again, Jack's steady hand as Board President helped guide the Church through a challenging time and restore its structural and financial footing.  Jack enjoyed forming many new friendships in and around Orleans and continuing a lively discussion of current events at a monthly poker club and weekly breakfast club.

Jack will be remembered by his wife, three children, and four grandchildren as a loving husband, father, and grandfather who taught us many life-enriching lessons, perhaps most notably the pursuit of truth and wisdom, in a wonderfully unassuming way.

Ph.D., University of Chicago

Major Fields:
U.S. History, Labor History

Selected Publications:

American Vanguard: The United Auto Workers During the Reuther Years, 1935-1970 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004). Winner of the Historical Society of Michigan's 2005 State History Award.

Walter Reuther and the Rise of the Auto Workers (Boston: Little Brown, 1983).

The American Experience in Education, co-edited with David Burner (New York, 1975).

From Evangelicalism to Progressivism at Oberlin College, 1866-1917 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1969).