The family of Employee Owners at Gougeon Brothers Incorporated lost Technical Advisor Mike Barnard, who passed away on 7/28/17. Our customers who had the opportunity to work with Mike will know that we lost an incredibly friendly, educated, and patient young man. I had the wonderful opportunity to be Mike’s manager for over 6 years, and hoped to keep him challenged until I retired. But fate took our favorite Eagle Scout well before we should have had to say goodbye.
We recruited Mike from Winona State University in 2011. Mike would be quick to point out that this college had the only accredited Composite Material Engineering degree in the country. He was proud of his alma mater, home state of Minnesota, and even the Vikings when they (often) lost. Mike viewed his career as a material engineer as a family legacy. His grandfather worked with wood, his father worked with metals, and Mike chose a career in advanced composite materials.
We knew he was our guy when, during his interview, he explained that when he worked at a Target store as a sales associate in college, his favorite part of the job was “helping people find what they needed.” His composites degree and a helpful attitude guaranteed that Gougeon Brother’s outstanding technical service would continue for another generation. We and our customers were not disappointed. Mike quickly learned both of our product lines (WEST SYSTEM and PRO-SET) and could easily support our retail customers and advanced commercial users. Countless boat builders, DIY retail customers, and professional material engineers were supported by Mike and I am confident he contributed to the success of their projects. He even earned the American Composite Manufacturers Association’s Certified Composite Technician certification on his first try. Mike performed testing that was specific to the United States Navy’s need to repair cracked aluminum deck plates; laminate testing for aircraft certification; and unique applications for submersibles, along with so much more. He performed work that was advancing the use of composites and he was not even 30 years old. Our industry lost a young engineer who would have developed the use of advanced materials. We will never know what notable improvements he could have made or problems he may have solved, but I know I hoped to have been his manager when it happened and would have enjoyed seeing his humble pride glow.
The only challenge when managing Mike was matching his enthusiasm and passion for innovation. His desire for continued learning is evident in his many EPOXYWORKS articles, in particular, his article on how to earn the Boy Scouts Composites Material Merit Badge. Mike always had an idea for a new product, testing procedure, or customer service improvement. Mike’s desire to grow and better our company was only matched by his respect for our senior staff’s experience. It does not get much easier for a manager than having someone like Mike on your team.
By the time this is published, our hearts will have begun to mend and we will have continued supporting our customers. Although Mike cannot be replaced, we know he would want us to continue his excellent work and to be successful—and we will. For our customers who worked with Mike, just know we miss him enough for you, too.
Thanks, Mike. I hope wherever you are, there are materials more advanced than you ever dreamed of and the Vikings win the Super Bowl.
Technical Director, Gougeon Brothers, Inc.
Image: Mike Barnard, beaming ear to ear, after his first week on the job as a Gougeon Technical Advisor.