Jay Barton II; learning was his life's work

Jay Barton II believed in the transformative power of education and made learning his life's work.

He lived in Sequim and was well-known in academic circles. He was president of the Alaska university system from 1979 to 1984, vice president for academic affairs at the University of Missouri from 1985 to 1989, and vice president and provost of West Virginia University from 1968 to 1979.

A biologist by training, he also was a professor at George Washington University in St. Louis and Columbia University in New York City, among others.

Mr. Barton died Aug. 21 after a brief illness. He was 78.

Throughout his work in education, his main passion was international development.

"He really believed that people could transform themselves and that it was a matter of knowledge and learning," said his daughter Elizabeth Barton of Boulder, Colo.

Mr. Barton worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Pakistan and spent two years in Peru advising that country's National Agrarian University. He spent three summers in India promoting science, helped administer an agricultural-training program in Tanzania and lectured in Milan, Italy.

"His whole history was educating himself and others, and he never let go of it," said his wife, Ann Taylor Barton.

Mr. Barton loved fine wine and well-cut suits, relished good company and savored good conversation. He also had a voracious appetite for books and a bottomless curiosity.

"He would figure, if I can read it, I can do it. And he did," his daughter said.

He rebuilt cars. He learned to scuba dive at age 72, after learning to speak Spanish six years earlier.

"My father was really driven by curiosity," his daughter said. "He was such a polymath - it's just the perfect word for him. It's the opposite of the dilettante."

A strong advocate of women's and civil rights, Mr. Barton also had a lasting belief in the ability of people to build a better world for themselves.

"He could see problems, but he never gave up," his wife said.

Besides his wife of 54 years and daughter Elizabeth, Mr. Barton is survived by six children, Sarah of Anchorage; Peter of Seattle; Rachel of Anchorage; Matthew of Rockford, Ill.; Mary Agnes Newbraugh of Morgantown, W.Va.; and Judith Pearson of Tarentum, Pa.

Also surviving are 11 grandchildren, a great-grandchild and two brothers, John of Los Altos, Calif., and Thomas of New York City.

A private family memorial was held Aug. 26.