Lasting Tribute - Endowed scholarship tops Professor Barany’s career

Author: written by Kristal Arnold
Lasting Tribute
Over his 52-year career in the School of Industrial Engineering, Professor James Barany has received numerous awards and accolades in teaching, research and student advising. Having retired in May 2010, he considers the establishment of the James W. Barany Endowed Scholarship in Industrial Engineering as one of the most rewarding aspects of his professional career.

He says that the merit-based scholarships will go to juniors and  seniors in industrial engineering beginning in 2011. A fundraising committee composed primarily of his former students has raised more than $1 million, and contributions are still coming in.

“These are actual checks written by my students and friends that have been sent to the scholarship fund,” he says. “I am very grateful to each and every one of those who have honored me with this remembrance of a scholarship in my name.”

Recognition by his students isn’t something new for Barany, who joined the faculty in 1958 after completing his master’s degree at Purdue. In 2006, the Institute of Industrial Engineers gave him the National Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award, and he didn’t even know that the student officers in his chapter had nominated him.

“It’s not the awards that flatter me; what flatters me is that my students nominated me,” he says. “It’s nice to have your efforts recognized by your students.”

During his career as a researcher, Barany gained international recognition for his studies of hemiplegic gait, which is how people who are paralyzed on one side of their body walk. His research centered on the areas of occupational ergonomics, methods engineering and work measurement, applied statistics and human factors.

His teaching also centered heavily on the human element with regard to advising and mentoring students inside and outside of the classroom.

“There are some professors who focus mostly on their research, and teaching is sort of an inconvenience. But Dr. Barany is the opposite; he was there to teach and mentor the students,” says Nathan Uldricks (BSIE ’06), a senior consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, D.C., and a former teaching assistant for Barany.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with many outstanding students,” Barany says. “Purdue students are highly motivated and well-prepared, and it’s a joy to go into a classroom to teach these students. They keep you on your toes.”

In addition to outstanding students, Barany points to notable colleagues as another highlight of his career, naming numerous pioneers in their field of expertise whom he’s had the opportunity to work with at Purdue.

Barany reflects that “looking back at your career, it’s just one day after another. Then, one day you say, ‘Have I really been here 50 years?’ It’s been so enjoyable that I’ve lost track of time.”