Salem psychologist Tommy Barber was honored with this year’s Charles Brown Award, which acknowledges the accomplishments and contributions of Salem residents. The award, which is named after Roanoke College’s first dean and a former mayor of Salem, is presented at the annual Salem Appreciation Breakfast hosted by the College.
“Tommy Barber is someone who has touched countless lives for good, and every young person who finds their way ends up making a difference in their community,” Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr. said.
Barber studied psychology at Emory & Henry College and Virginia Commonwealth University, later earning his Ph.D. in education at Virginia Tech.
Following the passing of the first U.S. Education for All Handicapped Children Act, Barber was one of the first school psychologists to bring the concept of special education to rural schools in Virginia.
Throughout his career as a school psychologist, he provided outreach services to six different private schools in the Roanoke area.
Barber also was education director and a consultant to Hope Tree Academy, a private day school in Salem for children with unique educational needs. In addition, he founded Educational Specials, a psychological and educational assessment and special education consultancy.
Barber also founded and was executive director of a summer camp program for early childhood intervention known as Jill’s Buddy Camp Foundation in Salem. Barber originally dreamed of forming a camp where students interested in education could act as “big buddies” to preschool “little buddies.” Now, he hopes to further reach underserved and at-risk preschoolers in and beyond the Salem area.
Through his Educational Specials and Jill’s Buddy Camp, along with several other programs such as the Salem Pledge Program, Barber committed his life to helping students of all ages who are struggling in school and life. His most recent devotion to students in Salem has been developing a vaping education program.
In addition to honoring a local citizen, the Salem Appreciation Breakfast serves to celebrate the relationship between Salem and Roanoke College.
“Salem is a vibrant city with a college, and Roanoke College is a vibrant part of our city,” said Salem Mayor Renee Turk ’77.
Roanoke College President Frank Shushok Jr. added that Salem is one of the most important assets for Roanoke College. “Thank you for making this a community of pride, performance and possibility,” he said.
Salem Mayor Renee Turk '77
Tommy Barber with his family and President Frank Shushok Jr.