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Former student named MacArthur fellow

Nov. 11, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Former Western Michigan University student Timothy Barrett, an internationally recognized craftsman and paper historian, is one of 24 Americans named the recipient of a coveted John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Popularly known as the "genius awards," MacArthur Fellowships are awarded to nominees selected for their creativity, originality and the potential to make important contributions in the future. Each MacArthur Fellowship comes with $500,000, no strings attached, designed to provide support for the recipient's work during the next five years.

Barrett, of Iowa City, Iowa, attended WMU for three years, 1982-85, and has worked to preserve and enhance the art of Western and Japanese hand-papermaking through his work as a practitioner, scholar and teacher. Combining the skills of artist, ethnographer, scientist and historian, he documents and demonstrates centuries-old hand-papermaking practices that may otherwise be lost.

As the founding director of the papermaking facilities at the University of Iowa Center for the Book--the only program in the United States that focuses on making Western- and Japanese-style paper by hand--Barrett has trained a generation of papermakers to create conservation-sound paper.

Utilizing his understanding of various papermaking traditions and innovative, modern techniques, Barrett has developed a variety of specialty and production papers to address the needs of book and paper conservators. Among other projects, he and his co-workers fabricated the handmade archival paper used to re-house the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution as part of the Charters of Freedom Re-encasement Project in 2002.

Barrett received a bachelor's degree in 1973 from Antioch College and undertook training in papermaking at Twinrocker Handmade Paper from 1973-75, the Saitama Prefecture Paper Industry Research Station in Japan from 1975-77 and WMU from 1982-85. He served as director of the University of Iowa Center for the Book from 1996-2002, where he is currently a research scientist and adjunct professor.

Barrett is the second MacArthur Foundation Fellow named in recent years with ties to WMU. Stuart Dybek, an acclaimed short-story writer and member of the faculty at WMU for 33 years, was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2007.

MacArthur Fellows are selected by anonymous members of a 12-person committee. Other recipients of this year's fellowships include a photojournalist, digital artist, geriatric physician, mathematician, health services innovator and investigative reporter.

The inaugural class of MacArthur Fellows was named in 1981. Including this year's fellows, 805 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been selected.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grant-making institution dedicated to building a more just and sustainable world. With an endowment of more than $6.4 billion, the foundation makes grants totaling approximately $225 million each year.

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Media contact: Deanne Puca, (269) 387-8400, deanne.puca@wmich.edu

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