|The magazine of University of Houston-Clear Lake
fall 2012 | volume 19 | number 1
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Barrios Technology Leader Helps Fund Education at UHCL
Ask local business owner and well-known community leader Sandy Johnson about receiving the UHCL Presidential Medal and her voice fills with pride.
“I was incredibly humbled and speechless when Dr. Staples let me know I would receive the award,” says Johnson, who received her MBA from UHCL in 1982 and was named a university Distinguished Alumna in 1996. “In my opinion, it’s the highest honor I have ever received.”
“Only two other Presidential Medals have been awarded in UHCL’s 38-year history, in 1989 and 1990,” says UHCL President William A. Staples about the prestigious award. “Sandy Johnson leads by example in support of her company, UHCL and numerous community organizations.”
Johnson’s Barrios Technology, which she purchased in 1993, is an established leader in the aerospace industry, providing support to such organizations as NASA Johnson Space Center, Marshall Space Flight Center, and most large aerospace contractors Barrios recently entered the oil and gas field, providing support to BP and Oceaneering. Even though the success of the company reflects Johnson’s innovative thoughts and actions, she does not see herself as a role model.
“Personally, I don’t think of myself that way,” says Johnson. “People tell me I’m a role model, but it never really crossed my mind.
“I will say that I feel strongly that it is my duty to share lessons I’ve learned with others and to make the path a little easier for them to take.”
It is this same sense of duty that convinced her to establish two UHCL endowments, helping make it possible for faculty members to continue their educational pursuits. The Barrios Technology Faculty Fellowship Endowment is for the university’s School of Science and Computer Engineering and began with financial support from Johnson, and then was completed by the company. The Sandy Johnson/Barrios Technology Ltd. Endowed Professorship in Educational Leadership supports the School of Education. When asked specifically about the second endowment geared for school administrators, Johnson reveals one of her fundamental messages.
“Education is the key to any career path. If you don’t reach kids in K-12, then their future is limited. I think every community should take on education as a focus to ensure children are getting what they need. Every child should have the opportunity to be successful.”
If asked what her biggest challenge has been as a female business owner, Johnson says that the most significant challenge she faced had to do with funding at the time she was purchasing her company. She didn’t realize it at the time that she was rejected by the first bank because being 35 and female meant she was too great of a risk. Fortunately, times have changed and success has been sweet, but it’s definitely not Johnson’s style to brag about it. She’s more likely to brag about those who work for her and her family that includes a husband and two daughters in their 20s.
“Seeing what our employees are able to achieve motivates me” says Johnson. “When employees are successful in their personal and work lives, it is a great thing to experience.”
“Both of my daughters also motivate me — just seeing them excel in their chosen career paths is rewarding.”
Johnson pauses and one can almost hear pride in her voice. It’s as if she has won another award.
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