Distinguished Alumni Awards
2015 Distinguished Alumnus
David G. Barker '64
David G. Barker considers the planning and construction of the South Texas Nuclear Project near Bay City his top professional achievement. “Today it is still the best-designed and best-run nuclear power plant in the world,” says Barker, who graduated from Schreiner Institute with an associate’s degree in engineering in 1964. “Ironically, you don’t hear about it because those qualities keep it out of the news.”
Barker was recruited by Houston Lighting and Power to write the specification for the nuclear power plant when he was 28. Over a dozen years—including the aftermath of the Three-Mile Island incident in Pennsylvania—he supervised its construction, which was ahead of schedule and under budget when he passed it on to another manager in 1985.
His first job after earning a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from Texas A&M was also notable. Todd Shipyards in Galveston hired him to provide shore-based support for the N.S. Savannah, the nation’s first nuclear-powered commercial vessel. While working for Todd, he oversaw the nation’s first refueling of a commercial maritime operating nuclear-powered reactor.
Barker has transitioned during his impressive career from nuclear power to the oil and gas industry. He now directs aftermarket services for Drill-Quip Inc., which manufactures offshore drilling and production equipment for use worldwide.
His path to Schreiner started in summer 1962. He was working on a Mississippi River tow boat after graduating from LaMarque High School, and had accepted a track scholarship from the University of Texas. Then he received a letter from Schreiner track coach S. M. Meeks offering a better scholarship. Schreiner had a major in engineering, so he accepted.
On the cinders, Barker’s times in the 880-yard dash, cross country two miles, and mile relay are still Schreiner records. He especially remembers competing against “the big boys,” the Southwest Conference schools, at the Border Olympics in spring 1963 and bringing back a medal for a record-breaking win in the 880.
He set most of his top marks as a freshman. A hamstring injury— preventable with modern training today—slowed him during his sophomore year and ended his track career after he entered Texas A&M.
Barker also excelled in the classroom, winning honors for Schreiner athlete with the best grade point average. Engineering was a difficult major and there was much attrition in his class. Of 35 engineering students his freshman year, only four continued the major into the sophomore year. It helped that Dr. Harry W. Crate, his instructor for engineering and mathematics, “was especially gifted, guiding and instructional,” says Barker. “He was a truly amazing man of great intellect and integrity.”
In 2014, Texas A&M’s Dwight College of Engineering, Department of Nuclear Engineering, named Barker a Distinguished Former Student, and in 1999 he was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Graduates for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Harris J. Pappas, high school 1959-60
Harris J. Pappas had a difficult time with grades as a freshman in a large, Houston public high school. Then his mother heard about Schreiner Institute in Kerrville, and he was enrolled there having never seen the campus.
Changing high schools at mid-year was not easy, but he started Schreiner in January 1959, and ended the year with no demerits and better grades. In fact, his grades were good enough to be a dorm moderator in Dickey Hall his 10th grade year. “The discipline of sitting down and having to do my homework and being on a fixed program helped,” says Pappas, president of Pappas Restaurants Inc., which owns more than 90 restaurants in seven states.
During his sophomore year he was class vice president and competed with the track team. He enjoyed fishing on the Guadalupe River on weekends, but two professors, Boardman Chambers and Henry Tinsley, saw that he also attended church.
“The structure at Schreiner gave me my first academic win,” says Pappas. Unfortunately family finances could not afford two more years of private school, and he returned to Houston. His grades went down again, but he was accepted into Texas A&M after graduation. “I would have loved to have graduated from Schreiner,” he adds, “but the confidence from that year-and-a-half really helped me through college. I knew I could do well if I applied myself.”
Pappas earned bachelor’s degrees in finance and accounting from A&M, then entered the U.S. Army and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant. His service in Thailand and Vietnam earned him two Bronze Stars and three Army Commendation medals.
After his Army service, Pappas joined his family’s growing restaurant business. His grandfather, H. D. Pappas, had emigrated from Greece in 1897 and opened restaurants in Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas. H.D.’s sons, Pete and Jim (Pappas’ father), built a successful restaurant supply business, and then started a restaurant of their own in Houston.
Over the years the Pappas restaurants expanded into a multi-state operation, including Pappas Bros. Steakhouse, Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen, Pappas Seafood House, Pappasito’s Cantina, Pappas Bar-B-Q, Pappas Burger, and Yia Yia Marys. Pappas also became of chief operating officer of Luby’s Inc., which operates more than 120 cafeterias in five states. He resigned in 2011, but still serves on that company’s board of directors.
Pappas gives generously of his time to numerous organizations and institutions, including the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, the Frost Bank advisory board and the Oceaneering International board of directors.
Also see: Past Distinguished Alumnus