Barnes to be inducted to NICC Hall of Fame
Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:04pm admin
CRESCO - There are city people, and then there are country people.
Thomas Barnes of Cresco arrived at this realization very quickly after graduation from Notre Dame High School in 1970, when he enrolled at DeVry Institute in Chicago to pursue a career in electronics.
“I liked math, electronics and radios when I was a high school student, so I enrolled at DeVry. When I arrived in the big city as a student – the crowds of people, the apartment housing near Michigan Avenue, the different attitudes – I quickly realized this environment wasn’t for me,” Barnes laughed, recalling his short-lived urban experience.
“I came back home and enrolled at Area One Vocational-Technical School (now Northeast Iowa Community College) when the College was still in its infancy. Looking back at that time in my life and the decision I made to return home, I feel as if God was watching over me.”
After graduating from the College with a Building Materials Management degree in 1971, Barnes embarked on a 45-year year career in building, management, construction, customer service and sales. Now first vice president of sales and estimating for Cresco Building Service, Barnes’ career is equally devoted to another calling: to serve the people of Howard County and his Cresco hometown.
On Monday, Nov. 6, Northeast Iowa Community College will induct Barnes into the Hall of Fame to celebrate and recognize his many honors, volunteer service and community achievements.
As an NICC student, Barnes found inspiration and career direction under the guidance of the late Bob Bartell, who taught Building Materials Management students. Bartell served as his teacher and life mentor and was instrumental in Barnes securing his first position as an intern, and then drafter and salesperson, for Spahn & Rose Lumber Company. His NICC education and experience in customer relations for Spahn & Rose deepened his understanding of communication and customer needs.
“My generation growing up in school was somewhat sheltered from many of the challenges in real life. I learned in my early career how to relate to customers and people, to be diplomatic and be positive,” Barnes said. In 2000, his customer service and managerial talents brought him to Cresco Building Service and to the leadership position he holds today.
He and his wife, Susan, believe that professional success is interconnected community service and concern for others’ well-being. He served as a volunteer firefighter for the Cresco Fire Department from 1973-1996, and the Barnes’ have devoted their time and volunteer work to the people of Cresco and Howard County.
The Barnes’ have served on the Mighty Howard County Fair Board since 1983, are active in the 4-H and FFA youth programs in the area, Cresco Speedway and serve as Executive Director (Tom) and Executive Secretary/Treasurer (Sue) of the Association of Iowa Fairs.
After the merging of the Assumption and St. Joseph’s parishes into Notre Dame Parish in Cresco in 1999, enrollment at the parish’s elementary school grew steadily. A few parish members and school staff members started a discussion on a school and church addition that would relieve an overflowing population of students and make the church accessible to persons with mobility issues.
Barnes, as a member of the Notre Dame School Board, worked with this group to raise funding for the school and church addition and remodeling effort.
He also identified strategies during the process that influenced the final product’s architectural beauty, aesthetic and cost, drawing upon his building materials and professional estimating expertise.
“When I was involved in the process with the building committee, it just really hit home that I needed to stay involved. This is my school and my parish. We brought construction costs down from just over $2 million to $1.6 million and raised the money in a year – it was fabulous,” Barnes said, of the completed construction in 2010.
“This is what my school, community and my parents taught me: ‘You give back to your community.’”
He has received numerous honors for his leadership in the community, including: Knights of Columbus Community Activity Award (1979); Meritorious Service to 4-H (1990); Degree of Honorary Chapter Farmer/FFA (1991); Cresco’s Citizen of the Year (2002); Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame (2002); Association of Iowa Fairs Hall of Fame (2006, both Tom & Sue); and the Outstanding Community Service Award from Cresco Industrial Development Corporation (2016). Many other community honors have recognized the service and dedicated efforts of both Tom and Susan Barnes.
Since its founding in 1966, Northeast Iowa Community College graduates have achieved distinction in their professions and through service to their communities. Retired faculty, staff and administrators continue to lend their time, talent and expertise to help NICC, students and graduates succeed. For more information on the College’s Foundation and ways you can contribute, contact: Julie Wurtzel, director of annual and alumni giving, at (800) 728-2256, ext. 218; Barbara O’Hea, director of the NICC Foundation, at (800) 728-7367, ext. 284; or visit www.nicc.edu/foundation.