UW Law remembers Alta Barer
Alta June Barer, dedicated community leader and philanthropist who touched thousands of lives, died May 8, 2019 surrounded by loved ones after a prolonged battle with lung cancer. She was 73.
Alta’s impact on the world is as profound as it is far-reaching, as she and husband Stanley H. Barer dedicated their lives to advancing political discourse and issues of social justice. Her commitment to the education of young leaders from the developing world endures in UW Law’s Barer Institute for Law & Global Human Services, which the couple founded to foster generations of lawyer-leaders who go on to address the world’s most pressing challenges.
“Alta and Stan believed that prosperity should be shared by all, and their philanthropy reflects a commitment to advancing opportunities for people globally,” said Anita Ramasastry, UW Law Dean Emeritus Roland L. Hjorth Professor of Law and faculty advisor to the Barer Institute. “As leaders for the global common good, our students and alumni are living embodiments of Alta’s legacy.”
Alta was born in Tacoma, WA on June 18, 1945. Barer, her four siblings, and parents Harris Lafayette and Margery McCleary soon moved to Salt Lake City where she grew up to attend the University of Utah.
Her drive to help others was evident early in her career. A flight attendant for some two decades, Barer regularly flew military charter flights shepherding soldiers to and from battle during the Vietnam War. She met and married Stan during this time and moved to Washington, D.C., where she served as principal aide to U.S. Sen. Ernest Hollings.
When the Barers relocated to China, Alta became chief aide in legal and social efforts at Stan’s law firm’s new Beijing office. There, she played an instrumental support role in the development of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, of which Stan was co-founder and chair.
Upon returning to Seattle, the Barers’ philanthropic efforts blossomed. Alta’s passion for the arts, education, women’s issues and politics came to life in her roles in a profusion of nonprofit organizations, including the Seattle Repertory Theatre Board, the Seattle Art Museum Supporters and the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists. Alta was actively engaged in politics, and over the years, the Barers hosted a number of prominent political figures at their home in the Emerald City, including then-presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
Amid her tireless work around the globe, Alta believed true progress abounds when passion meets education — a belief she and Stan backed up with substantial investment in University of Washington students.
Since the couple founded the Barer Institute in 2010, its fellows have been empowered to leverage scholarship and learning opportunities to effect improved outcomes in health, education, economic development and the rule of law in developing countries and nations in political transition.
To date, more than twenty students have played leading roles in addressing these issues thanks to the fellowships provided by the Barer Institute, earning degrees in the Sustainable International Development Law. The Barer alumni hail from around the globe in countries as diverse as Kenya, Myanmar, Cuba, and Colombia, reflecting the Barers’ belief that American students learning from international peers would build bridges in a globalized world.
The couple’s Barer Institute for Law & Global Human Services Endowed Fund provides direct support for the Barer fellows. The Barers also support a professorship in the College of the Environment and a campus-wide professorship run directly out of the Office of the President.
Alta is survived by husband Stanley H. Barer; son Aaron J. Barer Sr.; step-daughter Leigh K. Barer and husband Jonathan W. Fitzgerald; and grandsons Aaron Jr., Julian and Roman Barer and Ethan Hunt. She leaves behind a large extended family including sister and brother-in-law Barbara and Richard Drabner and brother Daniel Shirtz.
In memory of Alta’s legacy of leadership and continued investment in UW Law’s students, donations can be made to the Barer Institute for Law & Global Human Services.