Two Bobs ... and 60-Plus Years of Swarthmore Loyalty
Bob Barr, Jr. and Bob Bannister
“People often mix up the two of us,” jokes Bob Barr ’56, referring fondly to his former Swarthmore colleague and friend Bob Bannister. In addition to physical similarities and first names, these two legendary Swarthmore figures also shared long and distinguished careers at Swarthmore that spanned more than 60 years of service to the College. The enduring commonality for both men is their deep commitment, love, and appreciation for Swarthmore College.
For Bob Barr, who grew up in New Jersey, his Swarthmore connection began early as a college student. A political science major while at Swarthmore, he went on to receive an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. Entering a career in college administration, his path led him back to Swarthmore.
Returning to the College in 1957, Barr served in the admissions office, then as dean of men until 1970, and finally as dean of admissions from 1977 to 1994. With more than 30 years of professional service, he retired in 1996. To honor his many years of dedication, Swarthmore alumni recently established the Robert A. Barr Jr. Scholarship endowment.
Joining Swarthmore in 1962, Bob Bannister took a slightly different route. Born and raised in New York, he came to Swarthmore as a history professor after finishing a Ph.D. at Yale. “I enjoyed teaching students at Swarthmore,” he says. “They’re a joy to be with.” He also taught extensively overseas through National Endowment for the Humanities grants and Fulbright fellowships. Reflecting on his years at Swarthmore, he says “you have to be as smart as the students, and that’s not easy because they are smart kids.” Although he retired in 1998, he still takes great pleasure in strolling through the Swarthmore campus with his wife, Joan.
Both married more than 50 years, the two men hold similar family values. Bob Barr met his wife, Eleanor (Nony), while she was visiting her parents during a vacation from college. Her father, John Moore, was a faculty member and registrar at Swarthmore. Married in 1961, they have two sons and four grandsons. Bob Bannister and Joan met while in high school and married in 1958. They have four children and six grandchildren. Both couples still live near the College, and they enjoy gardening, time with their grandchildren, and traveling. They also spend time in the same community in Florida.
Significantly, both Bobs have now decided to give back to Swarthmore College by establishing charitable gift annuities. Their lifetime commitment to helping students continues with gifts that will support future generations of young people at Swarthmore College.
Barr was inspired to create a gift annuity in order to enhance the scholarship endowment set up in his name. “A gift annuity allowed me to give a substantial gift and to help more people down the road, and it has a better return on the money than I can get other places,” he says.
Bannister agrees. “I was able to give the College more than I might otherwise have given, and I get the same interest I would get if I had it in a fairly conservative investment.” As he says, a charitable gift annuity is a “win-win.” His gift is in appreciation for the friendships he made throughout the years, the strong sense of community at Swarthmore, and the remarkable resources available on campus. “It really is a special place,” he says.
Both Bobs feel passionately about giving back for all they have received from Swarthmore. As Barr aptly concludes, “Part of the job of alumni is to make sure future generations have the quality of experience that we had. Charitable giving is a satisfying way to make that happen.”Back
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