WMU News

Barents, Mieras honored as "Distinguished Alumni"

Oct. 8, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Two chief executives, one in aviation and one in higher education, have been selected to receive 1999 Distinguished Alumni Awards from the Western Michigan University Alumni Association.

They are Brian E. Barents of Wichita, Kan., president and chief executive officer of Galaxy Aerospace Corp., and Dr. Barbara A. Mieras of Grand Rapids, president of Davenport College. They join a select group of WMU alumni who have been recognized after graduation for their professional achievement.

Only 105 other men and women have received the award, the WMU Alumni Association's most prestigious honor, since it was instituted in 1963.

The pair will be recognized at a 6:15 p.m. awards dinner Saturday, Oct. 23, being held on campus in the Bernhard Center in conjunction with WMU's Homecoming celebration. Alumni and friends wishing to attend the dinner may make reservations by calling the alumni association at (616) 387-8777, no later than Friday, Oct. 15. The dinner costs $30 for alumni association members and $35 for nonmembers.

Barents earned his bachelor's degree in economics and psychology from WMU in 1966. Mieras earned three degrees from the University -- a bachelor's degree in business education in 1972, a master's degree in business education in 1974 and a master's degree in communication in 1984. She earned her doctoral degree in college and university administration at Michigan State University in 1990.

Barents began his career in management training at General Motors, then did graduate work in business administration at the University of Michigan and joined the Air National Guard. With more than 4,500 hours of flight time, he holds the rank of brigadier general and serves as adjutant general for the Kansas Air National Guard.

In recent years, Barents' career has taken him from a regional sales position at one major aircraft manufacturer to being a founder and head of another -- launching a new business aircraft in the process. During that time, he also has found time for a number of volunteer activities in support of not only his industry but his community and state.

In 1975, Barents began a 12-year association with Cessna Aircraft Co., rising from regional sales director to senior vice president for sales, marketing and product support. He then served for two years as vice president-sales staff for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. before joining Learjet Inc. in 1989 as president and CEO.

At Learjet, Barents engineered the company's sale to Montreal-based Bombardier Inc. in 1990 and led a $400-million new product development initiative that revived the company, set it on a course for sustained growth and created 5,000 jobs.

He followed up that success by helping to found Galaxy Aerospace Corp. and became its managing partner in 1997. The company produces, markets and supports an advanced line of business aircraft, including the Astra SPX transcontinental business jet and the newly launched Galaxy intercontinental business jet. The aircraft range in price between $12 million and $18 million.

Barents is a past chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and has been active in a number of civic and community groups, including those for economic development and crime prevention. He also serves on several boards, including Hospice of Wichita Inc. and United Way of the Plains.

Mieras has been an educator throughout her professional career, beginning as a business education teacher in the Hartford, Mich., public schools in 1975. She moved into administration as a instructional manager and then placement coordinator at the Van Buren County Vocational-Technical Center in Lawrence.

In 1984, she joined the staff of Davenport College as director of continuing education at its Kalamazoo campus. A year later, she began a four-year tenure as associate dean there, with responsibility for a wide range of student services as well as continuing education.

In 1988, she assumed the same responsibilities for the college's main campus in Grand Rapids as vice president for admissions and marketing there. In this post, she oversaw the introduction of several new programs and the opening of a campus in Holland, Mich.

Another promotion came in 1993, when Mieras was appointed chief operating officer for five of the college's 13 locations in Michigan and Indiana and given responsibility for all operations at Davenport's West Michigan sites. She became senior vice president three years later.

Mieras was named the fifth president in Davenport College's 132-year history in 1998. The college is part of the Davenport Educational System, which also includes the Detroit College of Business and Great Lakes College. The system enrolls more than 15,000 students in degree and certificate programs.

As president, Mieras has guided initiation of course offerings on the Internet as well as the implementation of the Learning Network, the college's Internet-based service unit. She also established a Learning Academy to help faculty, staff and administrators focus on becoming a community of perpetual learners.

An active member of several professional and community organizations, Mieras has served as a consultant-evaluator for the North Central Association of Colleges and Universities, a regional higher education accrediting agency. She is a member of the Metropolitan Hospital Foundation board and a past president of the Grand Rapids Ballet board.

To make reservations for the Distinguished Alumni Awards dinner, contact the WMU Alumni Association at 616 387-8777 or <alumni@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Mike Matthews, 616 387-8400, michael.matthews@wmich.edu

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