Robert Cushman Barber ’68 has always been a bridge-builder: as a Senior at Andover, he and a few friends started the “Sunday Morning Breakfast Club,” which allowed for informal dialogue between students and faculty over breakfast in the Log Cabin. Today, he will apply these communication skills to his new role as United States Ambassador to the Republic of Iceland.
Barber, who was sworn in on January 8 by Vice President Joe Biden, credits his years at Andover as a formative time for him, saying that it was a “wonderful, eye-opening experience” and made a “significant difference” in his life.
Arriving at Andover in the fall of 1966 as a new Upper, Barber’s transition to the school was eased by the Blue Key Society, inspiring him to join the Society himself. In addition to being a Blue Key, the future Ambassador was a strong athlete in his two years at Andover, earning three varsity letters in lacrosse and wrestling. In general, Barber said, his time at Andover “changed the direction of [his] life.”
After Andover, Barber attended Harvard College, graduating in 1972 along with 41 other Andover students in his class, and then earned a J.D. from Boston University and a master’s in city planning from Harvard.
After finishing graduate school, he entered the world of law and public service as an Assistant District Attorney for New York County in Manhattan, a position he held from 1977 to 1981, before working as a lawyer at Looney and Grossman, a Boston-based law firm, for 33 years.
Barber has stayed closely connected to Andover since graduating, serving most recently as a board member of the Abbot Academy Association. After his appointment as Ambassador, however, he had to leave this position, but remains fond of his alma mater, he said.
The White House asked Barber to serve as the United States Ambassador to Iceland in October 2013, but he was not officially confirmed until December 2014. As a result, he was not sworn in until January.
Barber said that, as his confirmation process continued and he learned more about Iceland, he became more excited to represent the U.S. Government abroad.
Prior to his appointment, Barber had never been to Iceland, but he departed for the country shortly after being sworn in. Barber said that he found Iceland to be “stunningly beautiful” and described it as a “small country with outsized issues.”
One of Barber’s favorite new hobbies has been to explore Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, and interact with Icelandic citizens.
“Icelanders as a people are extremely friendly, down-to-earth, authentic, fun… and very entrepreneurial,” said Barber.