Roy C. Barker, teacher, tennis coach at Gilman

September 23, 1993|By DeWitt Bliss | DeWitt Bliss,Staff Writer

Roy C. Barker, a former chairman of the English department and tennis coach at the Gilman School, died Sept. 12 of pneumonia at a hospital in Hyannis, Mass.

Mr. Barker had more correspondence with alumni of the school than any other faculty member. His correspondence was heavy despite his being a demanding teacher, said Ludlow H. Baldwin, former headmaster at the school.

"He was a superb teacher, a master teacher -- diligent, bright and demanding," he said.

A.J. Downs, who also served as head of the English department and as dean of the faculty, described Mr. Barker as "having an enormous impact on the students and his colleagues."

"The students regarded him with awe and affection, and we were lucky to have our desks near his in the English office," he said.

Though there was no doubt Mr. Barker was in charge, other teachers learned from him and had a sense of collegiality, Mr. Downs said.

"His monument was the thousands of students he taught," he said, adding that Mr. Barker was a man of boundless energy.

Mr. Barker, who was born in Bristol, Conn., was a 1936 graduate of Wesleyan University, where he also earned a master's degree in English literature.

Before joining the Gilman faculty in 1946, he taught at the Worcester Academy in Massachusetts and served in the Navy during World War II.

In the 1960-1961 school year, he taught at Tonbridge School in England as a Fulbright exchange teacher.

He retired as chairman of Gilman's English department in 1972 but taught an elective course in writing until 1982, when he moved to Brewster, Mass.

Since 1946, he had spent his summers on Cape Cod, teaching tennis at the Belmont Hotel for many of those years.

A natural at tennis, who once played a set while in his teens with Bill Tilden, the star professional, Mr. Barker taught the sport at a Pennsylvania resort before switching to Cape Cod. He coached the Gilman team to Private School and Maryland Scholastic Association league championships.

He was also a collector of tape recordings, many that he made from radio and television programs. They included performers from Sarah Bernhardt to Sir Lawrence Olivier and every president since McKinley.

When delivery of a speech was a graduation requirement at Gilman, he invited students to his home on campus to record their talks so they could refine their presentations.

At Gilman, he became known as Old Blowtop for his performances in class when students did not live up to the standards he expected.

Reserved for students he felt could take public criticism, these performances were delivered in perfect syntax, without profanity, but accompanied by a face that changed from bright red to purple. Other students were criticized in private.

His acting was also a feature of his teaching, for example, performing as Polonius in a line-by-line examination of "Hamlet."

He sometimes wrote comments in the margins that were nearly as long as the compositions he was marking.

His wife of 51 years, the former Beatrice Steinmetz, died Aug. 17.

Memorial services for the Barkers will be conducted at 3 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Murray Unitarian-Universalist Church in Attleboro, Mass., and at 4 p.m. Oct. 23 in the auditorium on the Gilman campus, Roland Avenue and Northern Parkway in Baltimore.

Mr. Barker is survived by a son, Philip Timothy Barker of Norton, Mass.; a sister, Doris Wickliffe of Sarasota, Fla.; and two grandsons.

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