- Honorary Degree (1973)
- Doctor of Laws
- Bloomington, Indiana
- Presenter: John William Ryan
- Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1956)
Like many distinguished men with Indiana roots, John A. Barr was born in a small Hoosier community - in his case, Akron. He studied law at Indiana University following two years at DePauw University, and received his LL.B. degree in 1930. Admitted to the Indiana Bar that same year and to the Illinois Bar in 1933, he practiced law in Gary from 1930 to 1933 and again from 1935 to 1938, and in Chicago during the intervening years.
The second phase of Mr. Barr's career began with his employment in the Chicago office of Montgomery Ward and Company in 1938. By 1961, he had served as Secretary, Vice President, and President of the Company, as well as its General Counsel, and also as a Director, member of its Executive Committee, and Chairman of the Board. He was the principal policy-making officer of the company from 1961 to 1965. When, in 1965, Mr. Barr was named Dean of Northwestern University's Graduate School of Management, his career entered its highest phase, the use of his corporate experience for the educational advantage of students in management.
Mr. Barr served as a Director on the Boards of Northern Trust Company, Swift and Company, Commonwealth Edison Company, S. C. Johnson and Son, Inc., Stewart-Warner Corporation, and Marlennan, Inc. He was a member and former Trustee and Vice Chairman of the National Industrial Conference Board. His directorships include as well the Chicago Chapter of the American Red Cross, the National 4-H Service Committee, Inc., the Evanston Hospital Association, and the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry. In 1967-68, he chaired the Committee on Hospital Effectiveness of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Preceding his appointment as Business School Dean, he was a Trustee of Northwestern and served on the Board of Education at Wilmette.
He was a member of Phi Delta Phi, Beta Sigma Gamma, Beta Gamma Sigma, and Order of the Coif. Recognition came to him in the form of the Horatio Alger Award, the Robins Award of America, the Distinguished Alumni Service Award of Indiana University, and the LL.D. degree from Illinois College.