This issue: Summer 2017

Dirk Barram

Dean, VP and professor was most comfortable in the classroom

By Brett Tallman

In 1974, fresh out of school at Kent State University with a master’s degree in student personnel administration and an abiding suspicion that he might make a career for himself in academia, Dirk Barram packed his things and set out alone from his home state of Massachusetts for Oregon.

“I was 24 then and now I can’t believe I did that,” he says, laughing. “God must have known what he was doing because I sure didn’t.”

Now 67, Barram is packing again, set to retire this summer after 31 years as a professor at George Fox.

Dirk Barram with Student

Though he came to Oregon in 1974, Barram didn’t find his way to George Fox until 1986. His first job was dean of students at Judson Baptist College in Portland, where he worked while also completing his PhD in college and administration from Michigan State University during sabbaticals. “I left Judson to go to Hewlett-Packard [in Palo Alto, California],” he says, “but I was there to get some business experience. I knew I’d eventually come back to higher education.”

In 1986, he took another job as a dean, this time at a small Quaker school in Newberg. “It was still George Fox College then,” he recalls. “There were 549 students enrolled and no graduate programs.”

In his first year, Barram helped start a degree-completion program and set his sights on building an MBA program as well. Though his background was in administration, the business department was short on adjunct professors.

“I can’t remember who asked me,” he says, “but I started teaching because they needed someone to teach a business class. I really liked it, so I taught a second one.”

Willing to serve wherever he was needed – a hallmark of his career – Barram fell into the role he was suited for: teaching.

“I had taught some management training classes at HP,” he says. “I was working with managers in their 30s and 40s who wanted to know how I could help them solve a particular problem. It was a collaborative process, and I simply adopted that here. All of my classes were entirely collaborative.”

Dirk Barram and Hoover

In addition to his teaching roles, Barram was named vice president for graduate and continuing studies in 1988 and vice president of academic affairs in 1992. In 1995, he served as acting president for one semester and, from 2011 to 2014, as dean of the College of Business.

No matter the title, Barram was always most comfortable in the classroom. College students, he says, were his perfect target market: “I love people. Trying to match the vibrancy of a college student, trying to tap into their desires and passions and figure out how to touch their intellect – I loved it.”

Now that his teaching days are behind him, Barram is eager to take on new challenges outside the classroom. He has written 11,000 words of his second novel and is planning a book on leadership. He also plans to do some business consulting and, from time to time, drop in on his children, Jeff and Anna, owner and brand director, respectively, of Sproutbox Media, a Portland-based marketing agency. In August, he and his wife, Nancy, will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.

“I am so grateful for George Fox,” he says. “What has made George Fox distinctive and such an attractive culture has been the consistent effort to honor the work of God in this place and to deeply value the students and employees who learn and work here. It was a great 31 years.”

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