Every other year, students who take the Business Law class during winter quarter get an opportunity to take a class with a “shepherd of truth,” according to senior Daniel Tongori. Alton-based attorney Lee Barron teaches the class, one that he took himself when he was a student here in the 1970s. He says he enjoys trying to inspire students with the law, a subject he fell in love with years ago.
“I am grateful that I’m in Lee’s class,” said Tongori, “Students are able to question their fundamental beliefs by thinking and analyzing issues critically for the betterment of the society.”
Barron seems to enjoy teaching law as much as he does practicing it. Teaching gives him a chance to share his education and experience with another generation of Principia College students. He graduated from Washington University Law School in 1986 and has taught the Business Law class here since 2001.
“One of the things I like about teaching is I get an opportunity to work with idealistic young people who haven’t seen it all, the silliness, or as Mrs. Eddy would say, ‘the ghastly farce of human existence,'” said Barron. “Practicing law, I’m often working with the ‘ghastly farce.’ That’s why I try to bring to both the classroom and to my practice of law a sense of joy, a sense of dominion, a sense of being unimpressed with whatever sorrow or ugliness is swirling around us and then trying to bring, if you will, healing or a peaceful resolution.”
Barron professionally handles employment law, federal court litigation, commercial litigation, civil rights, race and sex discrimination and whistleblower cases. He also enjoys keeping employers out of trouble through his practice of ‘preventative law.’
“I like employment cases but I like keeping employers out of trouble, too,” said Barron. “They need to learn how to identify areas of risk, so that if they find themselves in a situation, they know to talk to an attorney first.”
“The kind of people I get along with understand that you can be kind and speak bluntly and directly at the same time,” said Barron. “I look people in the eye and tell them I disagree and do so with civility and respect. Sometimes we pretend that we agree with each other when we do not, and act like it’s the same as being in harmony. I just really disagree with that. I think we have to have the courage to disagree with each other and work through our disagreements.”
Barron also tries to exemplify his highest sense of right to his students, teaching that a pure sense of honesty has done well for him in court. He doesn’t appreciate attorneys who try to pull the wool over a jury’s eyes.
“The things that I value and the things that I try to bring to class or to a jury are integrity, authenticity, preparedness, humility and respect for one’s time,” said Barron.
Barron seems to have communicated these values to his class. Students like Tongori are impressed with his sincere approach to life and its challenges.
“This is the great fun part of the class!” said Tongori. “He helps students strengthen their muscles to read between the lines and think beyond the words in order to understand the focus [and] substance of the idea.”
Tongori was also impressed with Barron’s abilities to communicate clearly and appreciates Barron as a role model for the class.
“There is a lot to learn from Lee,” said Tongori, “One of the greatest qualities that I believe students get from Lee is communication skills. He is very precise with language, which is very needed in fostering for an idea, whether it be business, personal story or life prospects. Precise language is also crucial to communicating and building an understanding and informed community.”
Barron seems to be successful at bringing some of the harsh realities of the world into his class, and he seems to be leaving a lasting impression of the value and importance of classic values and ideals.
“I work with some real scoundrels in my law practice, the bottom of the barrel,” said Barron. “So when I go back to the Principia campus and see people who are really animated, really trying to bring a better sense of the divine and to let the divine animate their entire experience, that is important to me.”
It seems that Barron really appreciates his education at Principia. All five of his children have attended The Principia School and three have graduated from the Principia Upper School. He said he still has very good friends from his time at Principia and he and another friend will be teaching a class at summer session this year.
“Blair Lindsay and I graduated from Upper School together in 1972 and the College in 1976,” said Barron. “Politically, Blair and I disagree about almost everything, yet I know he is smart, thoughtful and wise. We’ll be teaching a summer session course together this summer, role modeling how to agree to disagree and at the same time to listen with civility and speak with courtesy, even when we disagree on fundamental issues.”
Barron was an All-American goaltender when he was on the soccer team at Principia. His coach was Gary Crandell, who Barron said is a “great coach and an even better person.” After college, he played for the Cleveland Cobras and for the Port Vale Club in England. He also coached soccer at Principia, and among his players was Vitalis Otieno, the head coach of the current men’s team.
Many people at the College know Barron’s wife, Dr. Karen Grayson, who taught philosophy here for 18 years until 2008 and now has a counseling practice in Kirkwood, MO. Barron still appreciates his professors at Principia and has maintained life-long contact with them, sharing ideas and metaphysical gems. He was an English major at the College and still enjoys talks with one of his favorite professors, Colin Campbell.
“I enjoyed building relationships with my professors at Prin,” said Barron. “I had lunch with Colin Campbell yesterday. I’ve enjoyed staying in touch with my Principia professors over the years.”