Edwin D. Barlow was a legend at Horace Greeley High School during the time he taught
here. But he continues to make his mark on the lives of Greeley students even 10
years after his death, thanks to his great generosity to the Horace Greeley Education
Mr. Barlow taught mathematics and physics for 36 years at the high school, and his
style was nothing if not unique. He was known to read poetry and excerpts from “Alice
in Wonderland” to his math students, a book which he said contained his complete
philosophy of education.
He was renowned for his authoritarian style – on day one of all his classes, Mr.
Barlow warned students that he would not tolerate elbows on their desks or chewing
gum in their mouths. His strictness even included a prohibition against students
crossing their legs. Former students recall that Mr. Barlow called on them using
names like “vegetable boy” and “urchin child.”
Yet Edwin Barlow was also legendary for his intense devotion to teaching and his
deep generosity with his time, staying so many hours after school to help students
that rumors circulated that he actually had no home of his own. Once, when a former
student was having trouble with college mathematics, Mr. Barlow spent a weekend
tutoring him. He was chosen Greeley’s Teacher of the Year in 1983 and 1984.
Known as a loner, Mr. Barlow never married and was estranged from his own family.
His eccentricities won him admirers and detractors. One Open House at Greeley, parents
visiting his classroom found no Mr. Barlow, only a bottle of gin and a glass on
his desk, with a note that read: “I’m going home to have a martini. Why don’t
you do the same?”
A stocky man with a head of shoulder-length grey hair in his later years, Mr. Barlow
spoke French, German, Latin, Russian and Mandarin Chinese. He taught Russian informally
before it became part of the curriculum at Greeley and taught Chinese as an after
After serving in World War II, under General George S. Patton – service for which
he was awarded a Purple Heart – Mr. Barlow graduated from Holy Cross College. In
1952, he received a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. He also
completed graduate work in Chinese and the Slavic languages at Harvard and Yale;
in math and science at Tufts and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and in humanities
at the New School of Social Research.
In his last few years of teaching at Greeley, Mr. Barlow’s health began to fail
due to a heart ailment. At the end of November of 1990, he became so weak he had
trouble rising from his desk. Still, Mr. Barlow refused to go to the hospital until
he had lesson plans prepared for his substitute. When he was hospitalized, he heard
from dozens of students, one of whom wrote, “Obviously, class is not the same
without you,” signed “Vegetable Boy.”
Ed Barlow died on December 17, 1990, leaving his death benefits and insurance policies
of roughly $500,000 to the Horace Greeley Education Fund – his generosity towards
his students in life continuing in his death. Mr. Barlow’s extraordinary gift tripled
the amount of money in the fund, and established the trust that would continue to
help Greeley graduates attend college for decades to come.
At his funeral, Larry Breen delivered the eulogy, saying in part, “At a time
in their lives when young people feel body and image are all that matters, he demanded
that they respect their minds. He made them pay attention to their intelligence.
His teaching was not an invitation to learn, it was a command performance.”