July 27, 2020

Columbia College Mourns the Loss of Former Administrator, Bob Barham

Robert Barham
Robert Barham

Robert Timothy Barham passed on to glory on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. He served Columbia College in multiple roles for 34 years. In his obituary, the family wrote about his time at Columbia College.

“In 1958 Bob began a long and happy career at Columbia College, initially hired as a student recruiter but quickly becoming the Business Manager and Treasurer (later the Vice President for Business Administration and Finance). He played a pivotal role in rebuilding the campus following the devastating fire of February 12, 1964. Bob finished the last decade of his career as the Director of Planned Giving in Alumnae Hall, a building in which he was the only male employee. Bob often deadpanned that being surrounded by women was just his lot in life. He retired in 1992 and was awarded the Columbia College Medallion in 1994 in recognition of his outstanding service to the college.”

Interim President Mitchell recounted his many experiences with Bob. “After R. Wright Spears and James Milton Ariail, Bob Barham was the most beloved man of Columbia College. He was the link to the College for thousands of alumnae, visiting them and extolling the virtues of their alma mater. Bob was passionate about Columbia College, and he was quirky and unpredictable enough to make each of his visits a special treat. I loved him like a big brother — so disciplined, so ethical, so principled, so caring. From his first day on the job, his mission in life was to ‘sing the praise of her we love’ and his devotion to the College touched our hearts. Bob’s legacy will be how he inspired all of us to see Columbia College as the noble ideal it was to him. The College is a better place and we are better people because of Bob Barham.”

Lisa K. Fusco ‘91, President of the Alumnae Association and colleague of Bob when she was Director of Alumnae Relations, noted, “Thousands of alumnae join me in celebrating the life of Bob Barham whose career at our Columbia College impacted us in life-changing ways through his tenure in the Business and Development Offices. Bob’s love for his work, his family and anyone who he encountered shone in his words and actions. He loved meeting people and always greeted you with a joke or a funny story. We are thankful and grateful to have known and loved Bob Barham.”

Professor Mike Broome remembers Bob as a special colleague. “Anything I could say about what Bob Barham meant to Columbia College would be insufficient, but I think my former faculty colleagues would agree that he was indeed a special man. Unfortunately, it is often natural for a certain antipathy to develop between faculty and administration in the college setting. During his career at the College, Bob bridged this gap by demonstrating a common sense, caring, empathetic attitude of service for all faculty, administrators, and students. He represented the Columbia College spirit in all that he did.”

Judy Jones Cannon, former Executive Director of Alumnae Relations and Assistant VP for Development observed firsthand Bob’s impact. “Bob was beloved by alumnae of every decade. He enabled many of us to attend the college through his work to provide financial aid and through his fundraising activities. He never forgot the young women he knew as students nor the alumnae he got to know through their involvement on campus. He always delighted in seeing alums return for reunions and other events that he faithfully attended with Helen often at his side. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was filled with entertaining stories from his years on the campus. He genuinely cared for every member of the college family and I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him and to share a special friendship long after his retirement.”

A family interment has been held; plans for a Celebration of his life will be announced when finalized. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Robert T. Barham Scholarship Fund at Columbia College, 1301 Columbia College Drive, Columbia, SC 29203; College Place UMC, 4801 Columbia College Drive, Columbia, SC 29203; or Ashland UMC, 2600 Ashland Road, Columbia, SC 29210.

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