Sarah Evans Barker


Bicentennial Medal (2019)
IUPUI 50th Anniversary Chancellor's Medallion (2019)
IUPUI 50th Anniversary Chancellor's Medallion
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Presenter: Nasser Paydar
College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award (2012)
Indiana University Bloomington
School of Social Work
B.S., 1965; LL.D., 1999
Honorary Degree (1999)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
Presenter: Myles Brand
Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1996)
Indiana University Bloomington
School of Social Work
B.S., 1965; LL.D., 1999


In 28 years as a federal judge for the Southern District of Indiana, Sarah Evans Barker has met the goals she set for herself at her swearing in: "to be a person of courage and compassion . . . honest, fair, and incorruptible." She also has remained a person involved in service beyond the bench, offering her wise counsel and support to numerous community and university causes.

Barker is Hoosier both by birth and by choice. She was born in Mishawaka and graduated from Mishawaka High School before deciding to enroll at Indiana University. She has said she treated her undergraduate years as a "smorgasboard," taking courses that sounded interesting, pitching on a championship intramural Softball team, and participating in Sycamore Hall's winning IU Sing performance. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 1965, contemplating a dorm counselor's suggestion that she consider law school.

A year later she enrolled at American University in Washington, D.C. She earned her law degree there in 1969 and began honing her legal skills on Capitol Hill, working as a legislative assistant to Rep. Gilbert Gude, a Maryland Republican, before joining the staff of Sen. Charles Percy, an Illinois Republican. She returned to her home state to begin making Hoosier history. Barker has been Indiana's "first woman" in at least three roles: the first to be appointed an assistant U.S. attorney in 1972, the first to be named federal judge in 1984, and the first to be named chief judge in 1994.

Her work has gained acclaim, however, not because she is a woman but because she is an accomplished jurist. She has made several rulings of great impact and interest. "Her opinions are highly regarded by attorneys and members of the academy, and she is regarded as one of the finest federal trial judges in the country," according to Alfred C. Aman Jr., dean of the IU School of Law - Bloomington. Among her many honors, she received the Paul H. Buchanan Jr. Award of Excellence from the Indianapolis Bar Foundation in 1998.

Her work outside the courtroom is also highly regarded. She is on the Board of Directors of Clarian Health Partners, chairing its committee on values, ethics, social responsibility, and pastoral services. She is on the board of Christian Theological Seminary and works for Conner Prairie, the Women's Fund of Central Indiana, and the Morgantown United Methodist Church. She has been an active alumna of Indiana University, serving on the President's Cabinet, the IUPUI Board of Advisors, and the Bloomington School of Law's Board of Visitors. She received the IU Distinguished Alumni Service award in 1996 and Thomas J. Hennessy Distinguished Alumni Award from the Halls of Residence Alumni Association in 1995.

"She is a very dedicated and loyal member of the IU family," noted IUPUI Chancellor Gerald L. Bepko and IU Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Judith G. Palmer in a jointly written letter nominating Barker for an honorary degree. And Barker's family is also an integral part of IU: All of her three children have attended Indiana University.