Mathematics alumnus James L. Barton gifts $15,000 to UM-Dearborn to support students with disabilities who are majoring in mathematics, natural sciences, computer science or engineering
June 20, 2008
DEARBORN / June 20, 2008---James L. Barton has faced and overcome many obstacles since he was born with cerebral palsy in 1945.
Despite being unable to sign his name or feed himself, Barton earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the University of Michigan-Dearborn in 1971, and went on to a successful 25-year career with IBM as a computer programmer.
Although he currently resides in Texas, where he is proud to be a founder of Riding Unlimited Inc., an organization that provides therapeutic horseback riding to people with disabilities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Barton hasn’t forgotten his Wolverine roots or Michigan students with disabilities who are striving to achieve a college degree.
Barton recently established the James L. Barton Scholarship Fund for Students with Disabilities at UM-Dearborn with a gift of $15,000 to the university. The fund will help support students with disabilities and who are majoring in mathematics, natural sciences, computer science or engineering at UM-Dearborn.
Barton hopes to raise an additional $100,000 for the scholarship by encouraging others to contribute to the fund.
“When I decided to go to college in the late 1960s, I wasn’t encouraged to get a degree in mathematics, the natural sciences, computer science or engineering,” said Barton, who was named the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by UM-Dearborn’s College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters in April.
“I personally believed that getting a degree in mathematics would enable me to establish a career and become self-supporting,” he said. “By creating the James L. Barton Scholarship Fund for Students with Disabilities at UM-Dearborn, I hope to ensure that other people with disabilities receive the encouragement that I did not.”
A native of Detroit, Barton grew up in a blue-collar family, who enrolled him at the Detroit Orthopedic Clinic at age 3, where he crawled on his hands and knees until the age of 14 when he began to walk. Barton used a wheelchair in high school, for his safety more than anything else, and walked with his wheelchair in college, toting his books and a reel tape recorder in the seat. Barton began his higher education career at Macomb Community College, earning an associate of science degree before transferring to UM-Dearborn to further his education in mathematics.
Committed to his community, Barton has served as a board member for several non-profit organizations including United Cerebral Palsy of Metropolitan Dallas and the state board for the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Texas. In 1991, Barton was asked to serve on a Texas Utility Commission taskforce to research and establish a phone relay service to serve the speech- and hearing-impaired citizens of Texas. In addition, Barton was inducted into the Michigan Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame in 1999.
An accomplished horseback rider, Barton has competed in organized equestrian events at local and state levels. In 1987, he was chosen to participate in the 10-man Disabled American Equestrian Team that competed in the World Cup for the Disabled in Sweden.
“Jim is a truly amazing individual,” according to Diane Gulyas, director of development for the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters at UM-Dearborn. “His scholarship will help ensure that all students who possess the talent and ability to thrive in UM-Dearborn’s life-transitioning academic environment have the opportunity to do so.”
For information about making a contribution to the James L. Barton Scholarship Fund for Students with Disabilities at UM-Dearborn, contact Gulyas at 313-593-5504.