CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Peter Barr wanted to be a bread truck driver like his dad. Then a teacher planted a seed, the prediction of a higher calling. The seed took a long time to sprout.
"Good Time Charlie" couldn't cut it in college. In the Army, he started to realize what a fertile mind and a lot of people could accomplish.
He returned to Marshall for his undergraduate degree, earned a Ph.D. and landed in South Carolina as an academic icon at Coastal Carolina University, where he made a huge name for himself as a dynamic Pied Piper for economic development.
Today, he uses those can-do skills as president of Glenville State College.
He's particularly proud of the Hidden Promise Scholars Consortium, a mentoring program for 8th- to 12th-graders designed to groom first-generation college graduates.
At 63, he's starting to think about retiring, maybe spending more time in Myrtle Beach. But there's a problem. How could he leave the little town that has stolen his heart?
"I was born and raised in the West End of Huntington. My daddy was a bread truck driver for Heiner's. There were three boys and three girls, a big family.
"The Heiner's bread thing impacted me a good bit because dad had a really big route. On weekends and before Thanksgiving and Christmas, I would go with him on the route. I got to know my dad in ways that a lot of young men don't get to know their fathers.
"I was going to be a bread man. Dad had a good living, and the Heiners were incredible people. In the ninth grade, my civics teacher, Mrs. Grant, hugged me one day and said, 'Pete, I bet one day, you would like to be governor of West Virginia.' I didn't want to be governor then, and don't want to be governor now. But she recognized something, and it made me start thinking.
"I went to Huntington High School and developed the fine art of partying. When I went to Marshall in 1968, I did a really good job of playing cards and having a drink and didn't do a real good job of going to class. So I went to the Army for a little over three years.
"I was trained as an MP at Fort Gordon, Ga. I was sent to Fort Sill, Okla., for Officers Candidate School. In May of '70, I became a second lieutenant and spent two years at Fort Knox teaching kids how to shoot rifles.
"I was 19 and a second lieutenant and that put me in a position of responsibility I hadn't had before. I began to realize in the Army that if you have enough people and have the brainpower, you can do anything.
"I started back at Marshall as a business major and graduated in '75. In '72, I was married. She helped put me through school on the GI Bill. I started the MBA program and did that until '77. My father-in-law was Don Malcolm, and he and Fred Ashworth had Stationer's. They hired me to manage the bookstore while I finished my master's. When they sold out, I decided I had to get into something else.
"I had been teaching part time. I wanted to stay in education and went to Louisiana Tech for my doctorate. I finished all the course work and went back to Marshall. I thought I was going to be a professor at Marshall forever.
"In 1987, I had an opportunity to go to what was then the University of South Carolina at Coastal Carolina, in the Myrtle Beach-Conway area. I started as an associate professor.
"After one year, I had an opportunity to start what's called the Coastal Center for Economic and Community Development. I became dean of the Wall College of Business.
"We had the first accreditation from the American Association of Schools of College and Business.
"We wanted to start a professional golf management program, but four schools were already accredited, and the PGA put a moratorium on them.
"So we started the Cooperative Golf Management Program and formed an association with the Spanish Royal Federation of Golf who sanctioned our program. Then the PGA lifted the moratorium and we were accredited.
"We did a lot of economic development studies and put in the Carolina Bays Highway. It was a big deal.
"Horry County was perceived by the bond rating agencies as not a real stable economy because it relied so much on tourism. My job was to convince the raters that we were a stable economy.
"Grand Strand Hospital wanted to start an acute cardiac care unit. We were able to demonstrate that we had sufficient population, and we got the cardiac care unit.