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Signature style

Trademark Look Got Its Start On The Sidelines

When you’re an athletic trainer, a necktie can be a nuisance. Nearly 15 years ago, Dr. Bruce Barnhart ’83, ’89, ’01 found an alternative – and it’s become his signature look.

“I was covering basketball as an athletic trainer, and we were expected to dress up for games,” he recalls. “I’d bend over to tape a player’s ankle, and my tie would get in the way.”

Athletic trainer Mike Steinagel wore a bow tie on the first day of the semester when he taught at Cal U. Barnhart liked the style.

So he took a page from Steinagel’s playbook and bought himself a bow tie. And then another. And another.

“Bow ties are like tattoos,” he says. “You can’t have just one.”


Today, Barnhart is Cal U’s provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. He’s more likely to lead a meeting than care for an injured athlete, but he’s still wearing bow ties. His closet holds 50 or more.

The bulk of his collection comes from a Vermont retailer that gives each handmade tie a title. Barnhart’s first purchase, the caduceus-patterned Koop, is named for then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.

Another early acquisition was pink, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Now he owns bow ties with stripes and spots, Christmas and Halloween patterns, footballs and baseballs. And he’s always on the lookout for academic themes.

When accreditors visited campus to review the chemistry program, Barnhart’s neckwear featured the Periodic Table of Elements. To mark the recent accreditation of Cal U’s business programs, he bought a tie patterned with stock market bulls and bears.

He’s got his eye on the Blenheim, named for the birthplace of Winston Churchill, another bow tie devotee.

“They’re fun,” Barnhart says, “and they start conversations. I’ll often get comments, even from people I don’t know.”

Whether he chooses a formal black tie or a touch of Vulcan Red, Barnhart will be in his element at this summer’s Bow Ties & Pearls Ball.

“My wife and I have an agreement,” he says. “She’ll wear the pearls. I’ll wear the bow tie.”

— By Christine Kindl, VP for Communications and Marketing

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