Jerome Peter "Jerry" Barta, 1922–2004
Jerry Barta, who served the college as instructor and director of physical education from 1956 to 1988, died October 13, in Portland, following a short illness. Barta came to Reed at the end of what was termed "the Golden Days of Reed Athletics," when P.E. credit was given for such things as raking leaves. He instituted a structured credit system, and made P.E. a requirement for graduation. "A sound body and a sound mind go hand in hand," he said in 1967. Barta was proud of the competitive athletic efforts of Reed students, and of the program that responded to the varied interests and needs of a growing student body. He also relished the humor of less-than-successful sporting events. "At Reed, it's a pleasure to coach, because when you lose, nobody is going to holler at you," he stated.
During his tenure, Reed's original 1913 athletic building was demolished and replaced by the Aubrey R. Watzek Sports Center (1964). He instructed a wide range of sports, including racquetball, golf, basketball, and bowling, which became known as "Bowling with Barta." For the 32 years he taught and directed athletics at Reed, he generously infused the positions with his vigor, humor, and humanity. During World Series games, he hosted "Burgers with Barta," inviting Reedies to his home for fried hamburgers and fellowship. Students also shared meals on other occasions, and even did their laundry at his house.
In addition to his work during the academic year, Barta ran the summer outdoor swim program at Reed, worked as a referee at various sporting events, and operated ticket windows at local dog and horse racing tracks.
His national and local associations included membership in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Multnomah Athletic Club. He was also a member of Old Goats, a local group of retired referees, coaches, and players, who gathered to discuss highlights of their careers.
Baseball scouts were impressed by Barta's performance, while observing him pitching for his team at St. Stephen High School in Portland, from which he graduated in 1940. He entered WWII in 1942, serving with the U.S. Coast Guard in the Pacific. In 1947, he signed with the St. Louis Browns, and played baseball across the U.S. for eight years–attending the University of Portland off- season–before a leg injury ended his career. Barta then worked as assistant coach at the university (1948-51; again, 1955-56), and taught and coached at Alsea High School in Alsea, Oregon (1952-54). He received a bachelor's degree in 1953, and his master's degree in 1956, from the University of Portland. That same year he married Janet Repanich. They had four daughters, Joanne, Julie, Joy, and Jill. Survivors include his wife, daughters, and four grandchildren.
In 1988, Bruce '61 and Teri Engel established the Jerome P. Barta Scholarship, awarded to an incoming first-year student who has demonstrated outstanding character and academic achievement, as well as financial need.