Professor's dedication to school honored through endowments

Author: Linda Thomas Terhune
James Barany came to Purdue in 1956 as a master’s student in industrial engineering. He never left, joining the faculty in 1958.

James BaranyOver the past 51 years, he has become a fixture in the lives of students and a legend for alumni. For many, Barany’s name is synonymous with the School of Industrial Engineering.

As the school’s head undergraduate advisor, and faculty advisor to Purdue’s chapter of the Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE), Barany has met nearly all of the school’s 7,000 or so alumni. And they remember him—most frequently for his dedication to students and the school, and for his sense of humor. After all, teaching techniques that involve candy are hard to forget. During the freshman orientation class, Engineering 100, he tossed small bags of M & Ms at the students to illustrate that industrial engineers design M (an) and M (achine) systems.

Barany has served as associate school head since 1970. In addition to his work with students, he created and led annual Industrial Engineering Annual Work Simplification seminars (1966 to 2000), and the AT&T Graduate Summer Program for manufacturing and systems engineers (1965 to 1999), which awarded some 257 master’s degrees. In 1998, the State of Indiana recognized Barany’s widespread contributions by giving him its highest honor, the Sagamore of the Wabash award.

Barany grew up in South Bend and worked his way through Notre Dame as a union autoworker for Studebaker. His lifelong affection for the car is well known in the IE community, as was, for many years, an office packed to the rafters with books and papers that he likened to a warehouse. In 2005, long past the point of retirement for many, Barany pointed out that he had not once in his teaching career taken a sabbatical. “I was thinking of taking one, just to clean out my office,” he said, showing his characteristic sense of humor.

He is not only a mainstay at Purdue, but he’s also a longtime member of IIE, having missed only one annual conference, since the group’s formation in the mid-’70s. In June, during the 2009 IIE Annual Conference, Miami-area alumni and colleagues from academia celebrated Barany’s half-century in the discipline at a reception in his honor.

In recognition of Barany’s many contributions to IE and tireless dedication, the school is launching a campaign to create endowments in his honor. The funds will provide support for undergraduate scholarships, graduate fellowships, a named chair for his replacement, and a fund that will be used to evolve new programs for internships, advising, and course enhancement.

“For many of us, Dr. Barany served as our teacher, academic counselor, and role model. I was fortunate enough to have him as my honors paper advisor and I served as his teaching assistant,” recalls Joseph Mallof (BSIE ’72), president and CEO of World Kitchen, LLC, and chairman of the Barany Endowment Campaign. “Dr. Barany is more than just an advisor, teacher, and esteemed leader. To many of us, he was the driving force behind our education, a professional resource, a personal friend, or a mentor who is held in the highest regard. We will be reaching out to six decades of IE alumni to help us in this effort. I’m honored to help our school raise funds for such a humble man who has done so much for us.

“The endowments will help ensure that Professor Barany’s commitment to excellence continues long after his retirement.”

Save The Date

James Barany

IE will honor Professor James Barany during a reception on April 9, 2010. If you would like to play an active part in this celebration, we ask that you help in the following ways:

  • Attend the celebration.
  • Write a brief note recounting your experience with Dr. Barany.
  • Make a tax-deductible gift in his honor.

For more information, please contact the Office of Development at (765) 496-6192.