The anatomy of a scholarship


To understand the regard students had for Clinical Professor William Barba during his 44-year career at UB, consider this: When alumnus Gabe Cagwin (BA ‘02, EdM ’04, PhD ’06) wanted to honor his mentor-turned-friend with a scholarship, he asked other former students for help. Within a few nights in the summer of 2015 he had all of the $50,000 needed to endow a scholarship that launched last year, including a gift from the late former UB president and his wife, Bill and Carol Greiner.

“It wasn’t hard,” said Cagwin. “Just knowing the people and the lives he’s touched. It’s amazing.”

Barba, former clinical professor of higher education and chair of the Educational Leadership and Policy Department, retired in 2018. He was known for encouraging excellence and potential.

“He’s just so genuine and insightful and smart,” Cagwin said.

I would not be where I am today without Dr. Barba. He opened doors I never thought possible. He showed me a life I never imagined."

Cagwin was a student playing basketball for the UB Bulls in 2000 when Barba was assigned as his mentor, part of a then-new program for athletes.

“On top of being a good athlete, Gabe was really smart, and he didn’t realize how smart he was,” said Barba. “Anything mathematical, analytical, statistical, he was always on top of the game.”

Cagwin, who earned his bachelor’s in communication and his master’s and PhD in higher education, is now vice president for institutional advancement at Tarleton State University in Texas. In his career, he has raised millions for stadiums and sports programs at Arizona State University, UCLA and Penn State University.

“I love what I do,” Cagwin said. “I’m doing what I was meant to do.”

The William C. Barba Scholarship is for students like Cagwin: athletes working toward education careers. Last year’s recipient, its first, was Ian James, a former UB wrestler and athletics department intern. After he earned his master’s in higher education this year, he started work as Daemen College’s coordinator of residence life and career development.

James (BA ’18, EdM ’20) was glad he got to know Barba before his retirement. They lunched as James was honing in on his academic focus. “I started as a pharmacy major, but I decided pretty fast ‘This is not for me!’” said James. “I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do when a lot of things began pointing me in the direction of higher education.”

Barba was delighted and honored to have a scholarship named for him, a personal and professional gift. To have it initiated by a student who became a dear friend was even better.

Cagwin remembers well the thrill of telling Barba about the scholarship. “I was crying, my wife was crying, he was crying,” he said. “It was really cool.”

For information about creating and funding new scholarships, please contact Kerri Lehmbeck (EdM ’00), GSE associate director of advancement, at