‘Disco Bob’ 50 years at ACCC

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

 

Bob Barclay is approaching his 50th anniversary at Allen County Community College. He taught chemistry 36 years and for the past 14 has been director of campus services.
Bob Barclay is such a fixture at Allen County Community College he has his own personal parking spot.

Bob Barclay allows that the day he retires from Allen County Community College will be when “they move me across the street.” Highland Cemetery lies just west of the college campus in north Iola.
A week from today, at age 78, Barclay will be honored for having been at the college for 50 years, first as a chemistry teacher and since 1995 as director of campus services.
He will be recognized from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Stadler Room in the Student Union.
It’s not a retirement party, Barclay emphasized Wednesday afternoon. “I’m not leaving.
“You know,” he said, “I don’t feel like I’m 78. I guess I’ve never felt as old as I’ve been. I suppose it’s from being around kids all through the years. I have aches and pains. Doesn’t everyone when they get older? But, mentally I feel just as young as I did years ago.”
“Being around kids” has been his life.
Not only did Barclay teach for 36 years, he also took upon himself to be a part of ACCC students’ lives, helping them to adjust to being away from home and in a new environment.
As an adviser, Barclay focused on students pursuing health-related fields. For years he was known as “Disco Bob,” playing music for frequent college dances and for basketball and volleyball games before a college pep band became a fixture.

BARCLAY was an Army brat the first few years of his life.
His father served in the Navy but had found his
land legs with the Army by the time Bob was born March 9, 1931, in Brooks General Hospital at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. His dad later got a job with the Civil Aeronautics Administration and finally settled down in Garden City when young Barclay was starting fourth grade.
After being graduated from Garden City High in June 1950, the Korean War was unfolding and 80 young men were being summoned each month for Army service by the local draft board. Barclay decided he’d rather join the Navy and served until 1954, when he returned to Garden City Junior College and earned an associate’s degree in 1956.
“I decided I wanted to teach chemistry in a two-year college. One of my teachers at Garden City encouraged me to go to Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburg,” he said.
In Pittsburg, Barclay attended First Christian Church where he met his future wife, Norma. After being graduated in 1958, he enrolled in graduate courses at PSU. Don Bain, an Iola High graduate and math whiz, worked in the placement office. Bain asked Barclay one day if he’d like to go with him to Iola and look at a job.
Barclay was hired to teach chemistry at Iola Junior College. Then it was in a white frame building where the IHS library is today.
Bain signed on to teach high school math.
“Ennor Horine was superintendent of District 10 and the juco. Floyd Smith was high school principal and the junior college dean,” Barclay recalled. “I was one of just four full-time junior college teachers, but I never taught on the third floor of the high school,” where most of the junior college classes were. Instead, the science classes were held across the street — today’s high school maintenance department.
He finished work on his master’s degree in 1963 and earned a specialist’s degree in education in 1972.
“That was a good time,” Barclay said. “I was able to get scholarships and we went to summer school every year for several years — at Hays, Kansas State and Pittsburg.”
The Barclay’s son, Neal, enjoyed swimming in Pittsburg’s indoor pool during those summers. “When he was growing up, he’d come out to the college (ACCC) with me. It was his playground.”
“I had several opportunities to go elsewhere , but Norma’s parents were close by, on a farm near Pittsburg, and we’ve always enjoyed living in Iola.”

IT WOULD BE hard to overstate the influence Barclay had on his students. Because of him, many fulfilled their dreams of working in medical fields.
A look through the records shows that 41 of his students became nurses, 21 medical doctors, 17 medical technicians, 23 pharmacists, six dentists, four dental hygienists, four optometrists and three chiropractors. Sixteen others earned engineering degrees, 12 found careers in chemistry, two in biochemistry and two in biology.
Nowadays he spends his hours at ACCC tucked away in an old chemistry lab annex at the west end, creating identification cards for students, handling incoming and outgoing mail, providing duplicating services for faculty and doing “some computer stuff.”
It’s not a come-down for Barclay, who rues the day when he won’t feel compelled to fire up his silver Chrysler Cruiser to drive to campus and park in his personal spot.
“I’m happy with what I’m doing, just as Norma is happy with all the things she does,” he said. “I can’t imagine a time not working at the college.”
An “Educational Belief” Barclay penned while still a teacher may say it best:
“I don’t believe any of this can be measured in eight-hour days, contact hours per week, or total student load. Rather, it is measured in time, availability, flexibility in scheduling, and devotion to helping each student succeed.
“I enjoy what I do. I enjoy it because I believe in it.”