Barry Fasbender ’59: “You never know where life will take you.”

2014 at College of San Mateo pool

Being born in Detroit during the depression and going to school during WWII and the Korean War had a lasting influence on my life. I graduated from Cass Tech high school, where I majored in electrical engineering and captained their swim team. In my early years, one of my best friends was Warren Ament, who was a fellow Boy Scout buddy and also went to Cass Tech, UM and also pledged Delta Chi.

Pledging Delta Chi was a good transition for me where I met lots of good friends. One of the best parts was how I met my wife, Alice. My roommates were Bob Fear ’59 and Don Trim ’59. Bob was dating Suzanne Rockne (the niece of Knute Rockne) who lived in the same dorm (Helen Newberry) as Alice. During the ‘50s, with a last name of “Rockne” and also being very good looking, Suzanne became very popular. She decided to sell dates— charging a dime for a regular guy and a quarter for a fraternity guy. Alice gave her a quarter and that is how we met. This year marks our 56th wedding anniversary.

I lived in the house during my sophomore and junior years. I had a very busy schedule with engineering classes, labs and working part time. I also had swim work outs – often twice a day.

Some of the special things I remember about Delta Chi was sleeping in the cold room and shaking snow off the covers in the morning. Often, I would take our dog, a dachshund named Homer, home with me during vacations. One of my younger sisters loved him and still has dachshund dogs today.

Right after graduation from UM, Alice and I got married, drove across the country and started jobs in the Seattle area. Warren Ament ’60 was in our wedding party. While in the Seattle area, I worked for The Boeing Company on the Bomarc missile and John Fluke Manufacturing on precision measuring instruments. Our two sons, Randy and Cory, were born in Seattle. We bought our first home in Bothell where we both became very busy in volunteer activities. I was Chairman of their Planning Committee, where we surveyed the city, created its first park and started plans for a swimming pool. I was also Vice President, Program Director and Treasurer of the Northshore Jaycees. In 1966 I received Bothell’s Citizen of the Year award. I was also elected Precinct Chairman of the local political party (note: I’m not stating which one – at least this year).

Finally, getting very tired of Seattle’s rain, Alice and I and our two sons moved to Palo Alto, CA in ’67. First, I worked for Ampex on a tape storage system for the US military and then I helped start one of the first computer startups of Silicon Valley – Four Phase System. While there, I was Director of Engineering Services and managed 10 engineering groups – mostly in Silicon Valley and a few others spread around the country. After the company was bought out by Motorola, I started my own small computer company and finally finished my engineering career by being an Engineering Manager at Sun Microsystems. At Sun, I first worked on a video system for the first GE MRI machines. This department was run by Eric Schmidt who is now Executive Chairmen of Alphabet, Inc. (the parent of Google).

Alice also had interesting careers as a high school math teacher and, later, a software developer at NASA, HP and other start-ups. She and I always wanted to retire in our ‘50s to be able to do more volunteer work. Luckily, we were able to do this. I served on the Palo Alto YMCA Board of Directors of Indian Guides, Y-Discovers and Gra-Ys. We both were active with Canopy for many years. We would organize different neighborhoods to plant about 30 – 40 street trees on their streets. Then, we would train them on how to take care of the trees for the next couple of years. We also spent three years counting all the oak trees in Palo Alto. Alice volunteered at the Palo Alto Police department and at the medical library of a large local hospital.

Of course, swimming has always been my biggest volunteer project. My participation in US Masters Swimming (USMS) dates back almost to its beginning in 1973. My initial reasons for swimming masters were to lose weight and gain energy, but I have gotten so much more out of the sport. It has given me a tremendous group of friends who share my healthy outlook on life. Swimming has kept me feeling young and has taught me to be more disciplined in life.

Barry and Alice in 2014

Over the past 40 years I have coached, officiated and been director of high school, college (Stanford), and USMS local and national swim meets. Some of the big ones were helping run Pac-10 (now -12) meets and also being Swim Meet Director for FINA Masters Worlds in 2006, where 5,535 swimmers from 74 countries competed for 10 days. There were 161 new World Maters swimming records set in this, the largest swim meet ever held in the US. It took us three years to organize it.

I swim between 3,000 – 4,000 yards/meters a day – seven days a week in a coached workout – 23 years with Stanford coaches. The USMS competition is done in five year age groups. It is always good to get older and age up where the competition is usually a little easier. I’m looking forward to turning 80 next year and getting back some top times. I have 554 individual and four relay USMS Top Ten Times. I also have 12 pool and five long distance All-American individual times (top time in the USA). Additionally, I have been named Pacific Masters Swimmer of the Year for my age group nine times. Once in a while I set a record, but then a faster swimmer comes along and there goes my record! I have only one record left, but that is what life is all about. In 2008 I received the Capt. Ransom J. Arthur, MD Award, as the person who has done the most to further the objectives of US Masters Swimming. This award, named for the founder of USMS, is given to only one person each year. I currently serve on the USMS Rules Committee and the Championship Committee, which I once chaired.

It took me over five decades, but I finally got Alice to start competing in swimming. She was a figure skater at UM and has run 20 marathons. We usually participate in about 15–20 local, national and world swim meets a year. We have seen a lot of non-touristy parts of the country.

After we lived in Palo Alto for 43 years, we downsized to a townhome across the street from the water in Foster City–an island in San Francisco Bay. We often kayak.  I’m treasurer of our home owners’ association–218 units. Alice is on the HOA landscape committee. We are now getting ready to move, in the next year or so, to a wonderful retirement community in southern Oregon—back to four seasons of weather.

Looking back, life has been good to us and our family. We both feel that we had a good base for life built at Delta Chi and UM. Both of our sons are doing very well and soon looking forward to retirement themselves. Our wonderful (of course) grandkids are now in college and doing very well in their studies and a life that is so different than when we were in college.

To the younger ones in Delta Chi, study well for your future. Alice and I were always proud to put University of Michigan on our resumes. Also, while there, take time to branch-out. You never know where life will take you.