Old Ned

Arizona Historymakers™

Arizona Historical Society

Barbara McConnell Barrett

1950 -

Honored as Historymaker 2008

Arizona's Renaissance Woman

Oral History Transcript:

Video by Pam Stevenson, Agave Productions Inc., for Historical League

Barbara McConnell Barrett was born in Pennsylvania, but grew up inspired by her father’s stories about his adventures as an Arizona cowboy during the Great Depression of the 1930s. He died when she was thirteen, and she took on the responsibilities of running the family farm.

Accepted at Arizona State University, she readily committed to study in the state that had captured her father’s heart. Working her way through school, she found Arizona to be a “land of opportunity.” During an internship at the Arizona State Legislature, Barbara drafted transportation legislation and met community leaders. “I had the privilege of working with such superstars as Sandra Day O’Connor, Bill Jacquin, Jim McNulty, Burt Barr and Stan Akers. They were a line-up of wonderful leaders and role models who helped set a course for me of community involvement, as well as political involvement.”

These leaders also encouraged her to attend law school. Barbara Barrett earned her law degree at ASU and then, while working as a corporate lawyer, fulfilled her dream of becoming a pilot. She combined her interest in transportation and aviation as a partner in the law firm of Evans, Kitchel and Jenckes where she specialized in international business and aviation law.

Barbara Barrett’s career has featured several “firsts.” She was appointed by President Reagan to be the first woman deputy director of the Federal Aviation Administration. She was also the first Republican woman to run for Governor of Arizona and the first civilian woman to land an F/A-18 Hornet on an aircraft carrier.

Currently Chair of the U.S. State Department Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, Barbara Barrett is also on the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council, where she became a driving force behind Project Artemis at the Thunderbird School of Global Management’s, a mentorship program for Afghan women entrepreneurs.

In Arizona, Barbara Barrett implements her father’s legacy: education, education, education. She introduced the concept of the springtime Sally Ride Science Festival at ASU – a math, science and technology program (featuring astronauts, including Sally Ride) designed for middle-school girls. Additionally, top middle- school students participate in the Barrett Summer Scholars program, an accelerated learning regimen at ASU’s Barrett Honors College.

She has been the recipient of many awards, including the Sandra Day O’Connor Excellence Award from the American Bar Association and the Horatio Alger Award. Barbara explained, “The Horatio Alger Association raises money to grant scholarships to young people who have faced severe adversity.”

Barbara Barrett’s love of the outdoors has thrived in Arizona, whether hiking, horseback riding, or flying over the state. She met her husband, Craig Barrett, at the top of what was then called Squaw Peak. Her career has taken her around the world, but Barbara Barrett always calls Arizona home. “I thought I would come to see Arizona for just a semester; however, wonderful jobs, extraordinary people and breathtaking sunsets will keep me here forever.”


Historymaker Barbara Barrett biography published in 2008
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