Did you hear the one about the 30-year professor?
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
What do you get when you cross a humorist with a statistics professor?
To find the answer, you need look no farther than Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which for 30 years has been the professional base of operations for Dr. Larry Barron.
Barron, who is indeed both a humorist and a statistics professor — and a great deal more — recently celebrated his 30th anniversary as a GCU employee, making him of the longest serving employees on campus.
Has he changed?
“Well, yes, I’ve gotten older,” said Barron, who has taught psychology for most of a 37-year career that spans both GCU and William Penn University in Iowa. “I don’t move around as fast as I used to.”
Some things never change for Barron, including his love of teaching psychology – including statistics – and his high regard for students and colleagues at GCU.
“I have a heart for the students,” he said. “They are generally a nice group of people to be around.”
As for his colleagues, who recently presented him a plaque in honor of his 30 years at GCU, Barron said: “I really like the people I work with.”
The feeling, as they say, is mutual.
“Dr. Barron has a unique personality that spikes his students’ interests, even in hard subjects such as psychological statistics,” CHSS Assistant Dean Dr. Nöe Vargas said. “He strives to do his best work possible, and his dedication makes him a role model for both new and ongoing faculty.”
CHSS Dean Dr. Sherman Elliott also praised Barron.
“Larry has a keen understanding of psychological research and has been wonderful in imparting the research process to his psychology learners for over 30 years,” Elliott said. “In addition to his intellectual capacity, we are always impressed by the humor he brings to his classroom and to his colleagues.”
Humor, did he say?
If you want to know more about Barron, you need only glance at his impressive resume, where “humor” appears 33 times.
It is listed among presentations he made, including papers on “The use of humorous music in stress reduction” and “Imagery and humor: The union of two cognitive processes” and a publication titled “Humor in the classroom: Can teachers use it with class?”
He said he has been writing seriously about humor since the 1970s. It was the topic of his dissertation at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a master’s degree and Ph.D, and he created a class on the psychology of humor that he taught from 1981 to 2005.
He wrote a paper published in 1979 on “Incongruity-resolution, affect and the Aggie joke.”
What is the joke about the Texas A&M Aggies, UT’s arch rivals?
“It goes, did you hear about the Aggie orchestra that had to stop in the middle of the performance to get the saliva out of their instruments?”
What’s wrong with that?
“They were stringed instruments.”
Barron graduated with triple bachelor’s degrees in psychology, biology and English from Rice University in Houston, which is also his hometown.
When he first arrived at GCU in 1987, it was still a college with mostly one-story buildings and far fewer faculty and students. There was a field where GCU Arena and Camelback parking garage are now.
“Never, in my wildest dreams, would I have imagined this,” he said, indicating the broad expanse of state-of-the-art buildings and massive ongoing construction.
He said faculty used to have picnics in the field. The Quad used to be a parking lot, and every professor had their own parking space marked by a block bearing their printed name.
“Sometimes, I see the ghosts of what was,” he said.
Back then, he worked in the College of Liberal Arts, which became the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and switched back and forth a few times until 2012, when science and humanities/social sciences were permanently separated, he said.
He has outlasted four deans and watched the number of psychology majors more than triple to more than 1,000.
A devoted father to three grown children and adoring husband of his wife, Delayne, Barron has never taught online but has created about three dozen online classes. He has also worked on a number of University committees.
Some of his fondest experiences are teaching statistics to students both on campus and to nurses at hospitals.
“I really enjoy teaching stats. It’s one of the few areas of psychology where there’s an answer,” he said.
He also loves the occasional pat on the back.
“I’m always gratified when people come up and say, ‘I really enjoyed your course.’’’
He has no plans of slowing down for the foreseeable next several years but might possibly try something new at age 70.
Until then, you can find him class, using humor to cement complex ideas.
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or email@example.com.