Mark Barlow 1925-2012

Posted: June 26, 2012

Mark Barlow Jr, Headmaster of St. Mark’s School from 1979-1988, died on Saturday, June 23, after a short battle with cancer. He was 87.

A native of upstate New York, Mr. Barlow graduated from Wesleyan University in 1947, before going on to a career in higher education. He taught mathematics and served as Assistant to the Dean at Colgate University, before returning to Wesleyan in 1957, serving there as both Dean of Students and Dean of the College. Barlow earned his doctorate in Education from Cornell in 1962. In 1965, he became Vice President for Student Affairs at Cornell, and later held the offices of Assistant to the President and Vice Provost there.

It was while serving Cornell’s Vice Provost that Mark Barlow was appointed the twelfth Headmaster of St. Mark’s School, by unanimous vote of the School’s Board of Trustees. Mr. Barlow moved in to the Headmaster’s study in time for the opening of school in the autumn of 1979, and he served as Headmaster for nine years.

During his time in Southborough, Mr. Barlow led a major capital fund drive—the Campaign for St. Mark’s—raising $14 million for the School. Under his tenure, St. Mark’s tripled its endowment. Just as importantly, as Headmaster he brought to St. Mark’s a number of outstanding faculty, including Ms. Putnam, Mr. and Mrs. Wells, Mr. Norris, Dr. Lynch, Mr. Berryman, Sra Sanchez, and Mr. Suitor: all still at the School in 2011-12.

Most significant, however, was the impact he and his wife Jane had on the lives of so many students. St. Mark’s objective, he once wrote, “is to have a caring school, one in which all participants share a trust in each other. Compassion, friendship, and honesty are all values which are sought in the life of the school.” As Headmaster, Mark Barlow lived that philosophy, guiding St. Mark’s through the challenges of early coeducation and the pressures inherent in changing school communities as the 70s turned in to the 1980s. His leadership style balanced the duties of an effective administrator and steward with the larger obligations of a surrogate parent and educator.

“Mark had a wonderful ability to advance the School’s strategic priorities while, at the same time, making a significant difference to the lives of a number of students,” said current Head of School John C. Warren ’74. “He and Jane were a great team, and they left the school in a stronger position than when they arrived.”

Mark Barlow retired from St. Mark’s after Prize Day in 1988, but the Barlows still remained part of the St. Mark’s family and the St. Mark’s scene. Shortly after the Barlows left Southborough, the Barlow Endowment was established at St. Mark’s “to honor Mark and Jane Barlow, providing income for moral and ethical education at St. Mark’s.” The Mark & Jane Barlow Chair was also endowed in their honor. The Barlows were last on campus this past January, when the Rev. Barbara Talcott, current St. Mark’s Chaplain, was installed as the latest holder of the Barlow Chair. “I am so grateful to be a teacher,” said Talcott in her acceptance remarks, “and so grateful, in particular, to be a teacher at a school as honest and demanding, as warm, and as forgiving as St. Mark’s.” Her words describe the St. Mark’s School as Mark Barlow saw it and as he always supported it.

John Warren agrees. “Mark’s enthusiasm for St. Mark’s was infectious,” said the current Head of School upon learning of his predecessor’s passing. “I particularly appreciated the steadfast support and encouragement he provided to me.”

Mark Barlow is survived by Jane, his wife of 57 years, and by their three children: Andrew, Sarah, and Elizabeth. They were all with him at the time of his passing.

A memorial service for Mr. Barlow will be held at 2 PM on Saturday, August 25 at Kendal Retirement Community, in Hanover,NH.