RIO GRANDE, Ohio – Each day roughly 17,000 people fly in and out of Columbus, Ohio, for a staggering tally of more than six million per year. Protecting the safety of each patron is the responsibility of Donald Barker.
The University of Rio Grande Emerson E. Evans School of Business alumnus has served as a Federal Security Director for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) since 2002, and was appointed director in Columbus in 2008. Barker is responsible for the leadership and management of regional TSA security operations, workforces, administration of programs, security systems, planning, intelligence evaluation, interagency coordination, regulatory oversight of federal resource management, financial/budgetary management and administrative support.
Responsibility, dedication and leadership have long been associated with Barker, who served a decorated 21 years in the United State Marine Corps. Such traits have always been noticeable in the Ironton native.
“He was focused in whatever he did. He tried to do it right and tried to do it his best. He was just that kind of self-inspired person,” Rio Grande professor emeritus Robert Leith said. “You could turn your back on Don and know he was going to see it through and do anything to the best of his ability, because that was just the kind of character he is.”
Barker earned his Bachelor’s Degree in what is now Professional & Business Communication from Rio Grande in 1980. He also served as president of the Student Senate, President of the Fraternal Order of Archon and was a thrower for the now RedStorm track and field team.
The decision to attend Rio Grande was largely convenience as Barker, an Eagle Scout, also worked full-time as an ironworker. But he quickly realized the advantages offered by the 190-acre residential campus nestled in the beautiful rolling hills of southeastern Ohio.
“I choose to stay at Rio Grande because the administration, professors and students provided a personal environment which couldn’t be replicated at a larger school and allowed you to become more than a number,” Barker said.
Rio Grande serves as an oasis of learning, innovation and technology that offers students a nurturing environment focused on the needs of the individual with a student-faculty ratio of 16:1 and a plethora of extracurricular activities. A balance of liberal arts and experiential learning prepares students for successful lives as responsible citizens in a culturally diverse, global community.
Barker, 57, certainly took those principles to heart, and has embodied the Rio Way throughout his life.
Barker’s 21 years in the Marine Corps included tours in the United States and 29 foreign countries. His resume includes a variety of command and staff assignments with an amphibious assault battalion, light armored reconnaissance battalion, security force battalion, transportation battalion, several Marine expeditionary units, foreign exchange officer stints and time as an instructor at the Marine Corps University.
“He was an intense individual, and he was also very driven,” Rio Grande Track and Field coach Robert Willey said. “Barker worked hard at everything he was a part of, and he did not like to lose.”
Barker’s final military assignments involved command of several combat service support detachments including responsibility for all USMC air, sea, and rail transportation terminal operations within the Pacific Rim area of operations.
After the USMC, Barker joined TSA in 2002. He completed assignments in Alaska, Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee and Pakistan before his appointment to Columbus in 2008. Now USMC veteran and proud Rio Grande alumnus protects the more than 6 million people who pass through Port Columbus International Airport and Rickenbacker International Airport each year.
Throughout Barker’s success, education has remained a primary focus. After graduating Rio Grande with his Bachelor’s Degree in Business, he earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and earned numerous certificates from various global institutions. He completed the Management of Regulatory & Enforcement Agencies Program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Strategic Supply Chain Management Program at Northwestern University, the USMC Senior Logistics Program at Penn State University, the Senior Leadership Development Program with the Department of Homeland Security, the Norwegian Military Commander’s Program and the Marine Corps Command & Staff College.
And Rio Grande is where it all started, a fact Barker is very proud of. His wife, Sherri (Wollenberg), also graduated from Rio Grande in 1987 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. The couple reside in Carroll, Ohio, with their four daughters.
So what advice does Barker have for high school graduates and college students?
“You are your most valuable product, invest in it,” Barker said. “Read continuously. You may be unique, however the challenges you experience rarely are. Someone has been there before and many have written about it.”