I Spy Someone making a difference.
Crew leader and student turns bad day into sunshineby Brian Druckenmiller
If you found a $20 bill in a parking lot on campus, what would you do? What would you do if you found eight $100 bills? Enough money for a car payment, rent, credit cad bills or maybe all three.
John Barr, a crew leader in the grounds department, has worked at Coastal Carolina University for seven years. He is responsible for much of the mowing, trimming and edging around campus. In maintaining Coastal’s appearance, he also picks up trash he finds along the way. He comes across a hodgepodge of items such as books, vehicle registrations, clothes and kitchen utensils, but nothing nearly as significant as the bank envelope he found recently by the Cino Grille.
“Once I found it,” John said, “I knew someone was having a bad day.”
The envelope, branded with tire tracks, had $800 in cash inside of it.
His wife, Laura Barr, administrative coordinator in the Thomas W. and Robin W. Edwards College of Humanities and Fine Arts, has helped numerous students retrieve lost items around campus; John decided to report the find to her.
As soon as he told her about finding a bank envelope, she asked if it had $800 in it. Earlier that day, a student reported an envelope containing $800 missing to Laura. The money was for a tuition payment.
“John was so shocked,” said Laura. “Neither of us could believe how it unfolded. What are the odds?”
Laura returned the envelope to the student. “I would have been devastated if this had happened to me,” said John. “I’d hope someone else would have done the same for me.”
Aside from his good deed, John is known in his department as a dependable employee with a great sense of humor. “He is very fun to work with,” said James Mills, assistant superintendent of grounds. “He also takes on all tasks without complaining…at least not to me."
“Working here is great,” said John. “CCU feels more like a family than a business.”
His role as crew leader has recently been eclipsed by his new role as grandfather; John and Laura’s first grandchild, Elijah Jackson, was born on Oct. 25. They have three boys of their own: Chris, Matthew and David (the father of Eli).
John also has something in common with the bulk of the campus community. As an incentive for being a university employee, John is able to take free classes, making him a CCU student as well as an employee. Barr is allowed to take up to six credit hours every semester. Thus far, Barr has earned 45 credits toward his bachelor’s degree in history and has a 3.8 cumulative GPA.
“I am surprising myself,” said Barr. “I never thought a ‘C’ would get me upset.”
Barr is not looking for a career change with the degree. At age 61, he hopes to be near retirement when he finally walks the stage. “I just want to show myself I can do it.”
Despite such a busy schedule, Barr finds time to do the things he loves: golfing, reading thrillers and espionage novels, looking for sharks’ teeth with his wife, and banging his head to some of his favorite metal groups. In November, he will be going to North Carolina to see Judas Priest during their farewell tour.
Whether assuming the role of crew leader, student, husband, grandfather, or metal-head, he will always remain a hero in at least one student’s mind. He may feel the term ‘hero’ is an exaggeration; however, John Barr did what some may not have done, and made the tribulations of one student old news.