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History of Barrett, the Honors College

October 07, 2009

An act of the Arizona Board of Regents created the Honors College at ASU on July 16, 1988. ASU and the Regents thus signaled that providing outstanding undergraduates exceptional educational opportunities is one of their highest priorities.

Among the first honors colleges in the U.S., ASU's Honors College quickly rose to a position of preeminence. Only six years after its creation, Money Magazine named it one of the top eight honors programs in the United States. The same year the Fiske Guide cited the Honors College as a principal reason for awarding ASU four stars for its academics and fourteen out of a possible fifteen stars overall.

In January of 2000, Intel CEO Craig Barrett and his wife Barbara, an ASU alumna, endowed the honors college with a $10 million gift for special programs. Barrett, The Honors College was named in recognition of the gift, which, at the time, was the largest personal gift ever given to ASU.

The Barretts understood the gift would be used to expand scholarship offerings and implement student success programs such as grants to support undergraduate research and public service, study abroad, curriculum development and other special opportunities. They were surprised by ASU’s offer to name the school after them.

“The naming was a completely unexpected, out-of-the-blue honor for us,” said Barbara Barrett, who earned her bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from ASU. “It is beyond our wildest dreams.”

The rumor at the time was that the Barretts, who were friends of then-ASU president Lattie Coor and his wife, made the gift offer in the Coor kitchen one night when Coor spoke of his dream of an endowment for the honors college.

Both of the Barretts had been strong supporters of ASU, serving on numerous committees. Craig Barrett, who has three degrees from Stanford and an honorary doctorate from ASU, said, “The Honors College at ASU fulfills a critical need in Arizona by preparing well-educated, technology-savvy, strategic thinkers who will fill the high-tech and leadership positions that are being created with the new economy. Great universities, like ASU, spawn new concepts, new products, new ideas and attract the best and brightest in students and faculty.”

The founding dean of the college, Ted Humphrey, now is a member of the faculty as the first Barrett Professor. The current dean, Mark Jacobs, joined the honors college in August 2003 from Swarthmore College, where he had been chair of the biology department, and associate provost of the college.