“This isn’t something I ever thought I was going to do—I never thought about being a professor when I was growing up,” says Dean and Professor Emeritus Bruce Bare, who recently retired after more than 45 years as a faculty member with the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences (SEFS). Yet even if Bare never planned on a life in academia, he certainly embraced the role and flourished in his nearly half a century as a professor.
Bruce Bare’s academic career with SEFS touched six decades, and he never slowed down from his first days on campus in 1969 to his final hours in the office.
In measuring his extensive career, the arithmetic looks simple yet encompasses so much more than an accumulation of years. Bare has been part of this school for more than 42 percent of its existence, serving on countless committees and holding leadership roles from director of the Center for Quantitative Science to eight years as dean of the college. He was an early adopter and innovator of computer technologies, and he taught everything from forest management, policy and planning, to operations research, statistics and calculus.
He is, almost without parallel, a massive storehouse of institutional memory, and a bridge to some of the earliest faculty and deans who helped shape this school. Take a look at the faculty photos on the bottom floor of Bloedel Hall, and you’ll notice there’s only one of an active professor who arrived before Bare did—Professor Graham Allen. The rest came in Bare’s wake, and he outlasted a great many of them, too.
With that kind of tenure, it would be hard to find someone who doesn’t already have at least a few stories to tell. So rather than rehash the most recent steps in Bare’s journey, we thought we’d focus on a few of his earlier memories and (possibly) lesser-known endeavors. In each, we hope, there’s something that helps capture the spirit of Bare’s thoroughly distinguished career.
“My mother, for some unknown reason, thought I should be an architect,” says Bare, who was born in South Bend, Ind., in 1942. “I don’t know where that came from. I had taken a drafting class in high school, but I had no talent for perspective drawings, and my handwriting was never good, so I knew that wasn’t going to fly.”
He didn’t have a lot of other clear ideas to run with, either, but he knew he enjoyed playing sports and spending time outdoors. Year-round, even in the worst of an Indiana winter, Bare would carve out a space to be active. “I’d shovel the snow off our basketball court and use a long extension cord to stick the floodlight out there and play until 10 at night,” he says. “Of course, the ball wouldn’t bounce because it was so damn cold, so it was a lot of pass and shoot.”
The tougher task was figuring out how to direct his interests after high school, but at least the results of a few aptitude tests were unanimous: He should do something that let him work outside.
“Where I come from, working outside means being a farmer,” says Bare, but since his family didn’t own any farm land, he was pretty sure his future wasn’t in agriculture. While paging through a Purdue University catalog, though, he noticed a forestry degree listed as part of the College of Agriculture’s offerings. “It described employment and working for the Forest Service and getting to manage national forests,” he says. “I thought, ‘I would like to do that,’ so I decided to go to Purdue to study forestry.”
Bare outside of Anderson Hall in the 1970s. He was initially hired with a joint appointment in the College of Fisheries, but he then joined the College of Forest Resources full-time in 1973 and was awarded tenure in 1976.
The forestry curriculum at Purdue was fairly regimented, allowing only two forestry courses toward Bare’s degree his first year. He found a more immersive experience that first summer, however, when he got a job with the Forest Service in southern Oregon. Bare remembers driving to Chicago, where he caught the Great Northern Railway’s Empire Builder to Portland, then switched to the Coast Starlight to Klamath Falls, and then finally caught a ride on the Red Ball Stage to the ranger station in Bly, Ore. (Bare was disappointed to discover it was not an actual stagecoach).
He was assigned to the helitack fire crew for the Fremont National Forest. The team consisted of four students and the pilot, and they relied on a tiny chopper with no doors. Luckily, they didn’t have too many fires that summer, but one night Bare recalls getting dropped by himself to tackle a small fire. Planes had already been through and doused most of the blaze, so Bare’s task was to stamp out the last smoke and embers. He was armed only with a small backpack, a shovel and a pulaski, a wildland firefighting tool with an axe and hoe on the same head (good for both chopping and digging a firebreak). “That was it,” he says. “No saw, no water, no reinforcements. So I spent the whole night trying to put out that little fire until they came back to pick me up the next day.”
Then, around Labor Day they got one final call to help with a fire. “We’re flying over this big valley,” says Bare, “and the engine quits in the chopper—just like it snapped. The pilot is just sitting there, and nobody said a word. There are no doors on this little bubble, and you could hear the wind whistling as you’re falling.”
It happened so fast that Bare says he never thought he was going to die. But he remembers when they were careening toward a boulder field, about 10 feet from the ground, when the pilot flared up the nose of the helicopter just before crashing. They hit the ground and spun around a few times, and when they finally came to a rest, the only thing the pilot said was, “Whoo. We’d better get away from here in case there’s a fire.”
Nobody was visibly hurt, and they all walked away from the wreck. Yet Bare did leave with a few misgivings about helicopters. “I’ve flown in choppers since, but I’m not a big fan of them,” he says. “They don’t look like they should be airborne.”
On the March
In those days, everybody at Purdue had to serve two years in the military, says Bare, and since he had been a drummer in high school, he opted to fulfill his service with the military band.
The marching band outfit was quite large, with some 250 members, and Bare signed on with the drum corps. During the fall, that meant playing at football games, and during the winter it meant performing at basketball games and other functions. They marched in a big military parade in the spring, and even got to play at the Indianapolis 500.
What Bare remembers most—aside from the famous “Golden Girl,” a sequined twirler who performed with the marching band—was the intense rehearsing and choreography. “Every autumn day, rain or shine, we marched out,” he says. They would get arrayed in a long column and then play their cadence while marching through town from the music hall to the practice grounds—and then back again. “This was a big operation,” he says. “By the time you strung it out, we were about a quarter-mile long. It was a lot of marching.”
Bare actually went to the same high school—and later college—as SEFS Professor Emeritus Dave Manuwal; they even took a biology class together.
During his second summer, Bare completed an internship at an old Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the northeast corner of Wisconsin, and then after his junior year he took a final internship with the Forest Service in the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies. That summer, while living in a trailer at 9,600 feet of elevation, he worked on regeneration surveys, lodgepole pine timber sales, cruising and marking the road rights-of-way. But he says he picked up his most valuable lesson when he accompanied a friend, Floyd Wilson, to haul two donkeys back from Wyoming.
It was the Fourth of July weekend, and they hauled a horse trailer behind Floyd’s little Dodge Valiant. When they finally reached the town of Pavillion, Wy., Floyd labored to get his donkeys, named Jack and Jill, properly lined up in the trailer. The donkeys refused to stand parallel to each other, and the only way Floyd eventually succeeded was by shoving one of the donkeys in the opposite direction of where he wanted it to go—and then the donkey obliged by resisting him in the right direction.
“They’re so stubborn, you have to do the opposite of what you want them to do,” says Bare. “I never forgot that lesson, and I used it quite a few times in my career. Sometimes, when you want someone to do something they’re resisting, push them in the opposite direction and they often push back in the right direction.”
In the spring of his senior year, Bare took a computer programming course using Fortran, which IBM had developed in the 1950s. The instructor was one of his favorite professors, Otis Hall, and Bare immediately connected with the technology. “That was my first introduction to analysis and programming,” he says, “and most of this was doing simple things—a table of interest rates and basal area factors, inventory analysis, that kind of stuff. It was an old computer, an IBM 1620 located in the Ag Experiment Station.”
Later, after earning his bachelor’s in 1964, Bare headed up to the University of Minnesota to begin his master’s program in statistics, biometry and forest inventory. The first thing they had him do was help sort through a pile of Continuous Forest Inventory (CFI) plot records from the Cloquet Valley State Forest Forest. He had just spent the previous summer working with Cal Stott, the father of modern continuous forest inventory, and Bare again found himself working through inventory records, volume calculations and statistical analyses. He started reading books about powerful new machines and real-time computing, where you could get results almost immediately instead of waiting a few hours, or even overnight. And by the time he finished his degree in 1965, he was hooked on analytics and the rapidly evolving computer industry.
Bare, left, with Orin Soest, Jack Corkery and Dick Denman at the UW Foundation Gala during his time as dean.
Soon after that, Bare’s old advisor, Professor Hall, encouraged him to come back to Purdue to get his Ph.D. Hall had secured a National Defense Education Act fellowship that would pay him for two years, and Bare loved the opportunity to learn more about computers and operations research.
The core of his doctoral work, in fact, involved designing a computerized teaching tool to help with forest management training and experimentation. His creation, the Purdue Forest Management Game, allowed students to manage a simulated forest and to react to a variety of random events, such as forest fires, price changes and other triggers. The original program was designed to let students practice developing a one- to three-year plan that included operations like harvesting, regeneration and road building, and all with a specified annual budget and harvest quota (a later addition would incorporate longer-term planning). Within the game, there were three different forest districts, and teams of students competed to see who could do the best job managing their district.
Bare’s program proved so successful that several other universities used it in the 1970s, including the universities of Georgia, Iowa State, Michigan, Penn State and NC State.
A Taxing Diversion
Within five years of earning his bachelor’s, Bare had completed his Ph.D. in 1969, and not long afterward he had a job offer from Penn State—as well as an invitation to interview for a faculty position with the College of Forest Resources at UW. “If you’re going to make it in forestry, you might as well come where forestry is king,” says Bare. “That’s why I didn’t go to Penn State. The biggest challenge was out here.”
He was hired as an assistant professor to work in the Center for Quantitative Science (CQS) and arrived on campus in August 1969. Back then, CQS occupied its own building down by the hospital, and Bare initially had a joint appointment with the College of Fisheries. Not until 1973 did he move into Anderson Hall and become full-time with forestry, and by 1976 he had been promoted and awarded tenure. He would go on to teach dozens of courses, from operations research and computer programming to forest management and policy, quantitative methods for forest planning, statistics, financial management for foresters, computer-based modeling and many others.
Bare with Bill Gates, Sr., on Azalea Way in the Arboretum after a tree-planting ceremony in 2007.
He maintained an active research program, as well, and one of his more memorable projects involved researching how to tax timber in Washington and how to better manage large tracts of land for many uses on a sustainable basis. “The forest industry was moving from an extractive to a plantation-based industry,” he says, where “you have to manage resources entirely different. I was interested because it was a mixture of the analytics I knew well, with application to a real-world environment.”
Bare and his colleague, Professor Barney Dowdle, ended up having numerous serious discussions over the most appropriate way to tax forests under transition from an old-growth to a plantation basis. Eventually, they settled on a compromise wherein the basis of the plantation property tax should be the land value plus the reforestation investment required to initiate the next timber crop. The legislative debate that ensued extended for almost 15 years before the state settled on a permanent solution.
Managing large forested water basins for multiple uses also attracted Bare and Professors Bethel and Schreuder to develop a spatially oriented simulation model through the National Science Foundation. This multi-year effort was one of the first of its kind in this region and allowed agency and private land managers to experiment with alternative land use strategies over time, while viewing environmental as well as societal impacts of their proposed actions.
From his first days on campus in 1969 to his final hours in the office last quarter, Bare never slowed down or stepped away from the action. He kept working on new research, including the 2013 Western Washington Hardwood Assessment, and served as director of the Institute of Forest Resources up until his final months. He showed up for pretty much every school event and served on numerous committees, and he continued—continues, rather—to awe everyone with his running regimen, routinely logging 40-plus miles a week.
As such a fixture for so long, with a career that touched six decades, Bare’s absence is already palpable. Sure, it’s only been a few weeks, but there’s no question—if you can excuse such an unpardonable pun—these halls are noticeably more bare without him.
Photos © Bruce Bare and SEFS.
Bare, far right, at the 2014 SEFS Graduation Ceremony.