Alumni Spotlights

Nature Is Calling

Forestry Became First Love for Dick Barney ’58

Whether it was singing alongside his Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers at the University of Montana during serenades or fighting wildfires during his forestry career, Richard “Dick” Barney ’58 has always been in tune with his surroundings.

After transferring from North Carolina State University, Dick knew that the Montana Beta chapter was a good environment to help him pursue some of his lifelong goals.

“What I learned from SAE didn’t prepare me for forestry, but I think in general it prepares everybody for life after college. We learned some social graces,” Dick said. “We learned how to get along with other people, and we also learned how to organize and in some cases lead activities. It was a good opportunity in that respect. From a standpoint of somebody who was far away from home, it gave me a good family association.”

Dick earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in forestry at the University of Montana and called Missoula home for the better part of four decades. Dick started his forestry career at a ranger district of the U.S. Department of Agriculture before taking a six-month hiatus to serve in the military between the Vietnam and Korean wars.

The focus of Dick’s forestry career shifted to actively working in fire research and becoming chairman of the Society of American Foresters fireworking group. He was elected as a fellow in the Society of American Foresters.

“I was a wildfire management specialist and worked with a super bunch of people at the Northern Forest Fire Laboratory,” Dick said.

As much as Dick enjoyed the bonds he built with his co-workers, he began wildfire management consulting for himself in 1985. Dick spent a lot of time studying, and it paid off as he earned his P.h.D. in forestry from Michigan State at the age of 40.

Dick felt fortunate to occasionally cross paths with a couple of his fraternity brothers who also entered the forestry field. During Dick’s days in the SAE house, the leadership, communication and organizational skills that he and his brothers learned were on display in many campus activities. He also remained involved with the Montana Beta chapter as a member of the House Corporation after graduating.

“SAE was kind of known as the singing fraternity,” Dick said. “We used to go out on serenades when one of the brothers would get pinned; we’d go out and serenade his sweetheart in front of the sorority house. We had a good group because we had a bunch of our fraternity brothers that were also in one of the university singing groups.”

Dick married his sweetheart, Marilyn Peterson, and they have two sons, Richard and Robert. While Dick and Marilyn now live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during the summer and Arizona during the winter, both homes offer them the same sense of peace that they had in Montana.

“I’ve got the best of both worlds,” Dick said. “I’ve got water and green during the summer, and then I can come back to Arizona during the winter to get warm again. With my new hobby of silversmithing, life is great!”

You can reach Dick at


To read more spotlights click the links below.

Fall 2018: Richard “Dick” Barney ’58
Spring 2018: Scott Thompson ’83
Fall 2017: Douglas “Doug” Banks ’79
Spring 2017: Gary Fish ’62
Fall 2015: Hal Gillet ’53 and Dick Ford ’64
Spring 2014: Bob Higham ’58
Fall 2014: Don Krumm ’64
Spring 2014: Bob Higham ’58
Fall 2013: Jim Wilits ’64, Kurt Ingold ’14
Spring 2013: Bob Haynam ’65, Max Boese, Oregon Gamma ’62
Fall 2011: Tom Ross ’62
Spring 2011: Dennis Stevens ’64
Fall 2010: Lawrence “Tony” Wertz ’65
Summer 2010: John L. Olson ’62, David Bell ’96
Spring 2009: Bill Bouchee ’63
Fall 2008: Kenneth C. Mlekush ’60

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The mission of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is to promote the highest standards of friendship, scholarship, and service for our members based upon the ideals set forth by our Founders and as specifically enunciated in our creed, "The True Gentleman."
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