How four years can impact a lifetime

Alumnus Dave Barakat talks career and college

Alexandra George

Aug 31, 2017

Mr. and Mrs. Barakat

Source: David Barakat

Dave and LaVerne Barakat celebrating his birthday.

During his first year at Carnegie Institute of Technology, Dave Barakat lived in McGill Hall. On the first night of his first year, Barakat set out his sport coat to wear for a mixer that evening before leaving the room. When he returned, the coat was gone.

At the mixer, he saw someone in a coat that looked just like his, so he introduced himself. Coincidence? No, he’d found the culprit: his roommate! This was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted more than fifty years.

In 1968, Dave Barakat graduated from Carnegie Mellon (called Carnegie Tech at the time) with a degree in mechanical engineering. Barakat started his education at the General Motors Institute, a program focused on the automotive industry, but after one semester he dropped out because he realized that he wanted a broader engineering education.

When he found Carnegie Institute of Technology, it was clear that this was the right school for him.

“I spent four great years at Carnegie Mellon,” said Barakat. “The sciences, arts, and technology exist at their best all on one campus. I wish I would have gotten an even broader exposure to all of the disciplines while I was there.”

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, Barakat worked in modeling and simulation for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York. In 1969 both he and a colleague wanted to move to the west coast, so they both found jobs with TRW (a major aerospace company) and moved with their families to Los Angeles.

At TRW, Barakat performed systems engineering and systems design for high tech military and government systems while he earned his MBA from UCLA. He then progressed into various management positions including a division vice president.

The sciences, arts, and technology exist at their best all on one campus.

Dave Barakat, Mechanical Engineering, 1968

After Northrop Grumman acquired TRW in 2002, Barakat ultimately rose to be the Vice President of Programs, Engineering, and Technology for the corporation. Although he was busy working, Barakat continued to pursue his interest in cars, establishing an automotive repair shop near his home, and also developed an interest in various real estate opportunities.

“The problem solving approach is what it’s all about in industry,” said Barakat. “That’s the key thing I learned at Carnegie Mellon. Whether the problem is about management, technical aspects, or personnel, how you address it and how you find solutions is really what matters.”

In 2008, Barakat retired from Northrop Grumman, but Carnegie Mellon University and Pittsburgh still remain an important part of his life. He and his wife LaVerne established a fellowship to fund Ph.D. students in the College of Engineering. A candidate is selected by the Dean of Engineering, and, when possible, the research conducted by the candidate complements Northrop Grumman’s own research endeavors.

The problem solving approach is what it’s all about in industry. That’s the key thing I learned at Carnegie Mellon.

Dave Barakat, Mechanical Engineering, 1968

The hands-on approach and professors at Carnegie Mellon stand out to Barakat as significant aspects of his education. In classes like fluids and thermodynamics, working in the lab gave him a chance to apply classroom learning.

“In any educational pursuit there are professors who leave an indelible mark on you,” said Barakat.

For Barakat, Dr. Victor Del Bene was one such professor. Del Bene taught fluid dynamics, and according to Barakat, he was very down to earth, related well to his students, and was well-known in his field. Five years ago Barakat reconnected with Dr. Del Bene who retired in Palm Springs, not far from Barakat’s home.

Barakat and his wife currently live in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara where they stay busy with their kids, grandkids, dogs, real estate, their auto repair business, and various charities.