Barker honored as part of Christian Higher Education Month

Jeff Barker, professor of theatre and speech, was among 21 individuals honored during Christian Higher Education Month in October by the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU). Barker and the other honorees, all alumni of Christian colleges, were featured in profiles at the CCCU Web site. 

This year’s honorees included author Richard Foster, U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers of Michigan and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist David Leeson of the Dallas Morning News. Applicants were nominated from the 105 CCCU member institutions. From that pool, 21 were chosen in five fields of expertise: government and law, arts and entertainment, community and society, science and technology, and business.

Barker, a 1976 alumnus of Seattle Pacific University, has been a Christian college theatre professor for 21 years. He taught for five years at Pennsylvania’s Geneva College and joined Northwestern’s theatre department in 1988 in a shared position with his wife, Karen. Five years ago, both Barkers became full-time faculty.

Barker’s online profile said he knew he was a playwright when he naturally turned every college research paper he could into a play. In his western civilizations class, he wrote a play to describe the impact of Augustine on society. In philosophy, he wrote a play to answer an eschatology question. Some professors were so impressed, they asked him to recruit actors and perform the plays for the class.

“It was a couple years after college when I realized my college loves were not going to be shaken off easily,” Barker said, referring to his strong leanings toward theatre. So he completed graduate degrees in theatre performance and in directing and became a professional playwright. With more than 30 plays to his credit, Barker’s shows have been produced at colleges, churches and theatres across the country, including the Christians in Theatre Arts national conference, the Crystal Cathedral and Lamb’s Theatre (off-Broadway).

“If an artist is faithful to tell a story well, the door is thrown open to people who are not necessarily of the same faith, but they can hear a faithful story, even a gospel story because it’s an honest story,” said Barker. “That’s what I try really hard to do as a writer.”

The Barkers received Northwestern’s Sears-Roebuck Foundation Teaching Excellence and Campus Leadership Award in 1991. In 2003, they were among three Gold Medallion award recipients in Region Five of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCATF). Jeff won the New Voices Iowa Playwrights Competition in 2002 for his play Kin and received a Medallion Award for outstanding alumni achievement from Seattle Pacific in 1997. His script of Unspoken for Time earned a Meritorious Achievement Award from the KCATF in 1995.

The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) is an international higher education association of intentionally Christian colleges and universities. Serving 218,000 students, CCCU institutions include 105 members in North America and 69 affiliate campuses in 24 countries. The goal of CCCU colleges and universities is to offer academic excellence in a distinctively Christian atmosphere.