Patricia Barron.

Position:Director at Ultralife Batteries - Interview

From a passion to be a dancer to a passion for business, this longtime Xerox executive did several career pirouettes on her way to the boardroom.

FLASHBACK: Mid-1960s. A young lithe body lunges across the room, arms and legs in full extension. Sweat beads across the dancer's brow, then falls gently onto the wooden floor. Though the movement is fluid, and appears effortless, the early onslaught of arthritis brings pain to vulnerable knee joints. The rigor of endless training is beginning to take its toll. Rest is in order.

Today, thanks to a significant career change, Patricia C. Barron is more than capable of taking long strides. In fact, this reporter struggled to keep up with her pace through the busy concourse at Amtrak's 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. Posture perfect as she beelined through the throng, Barron was traveling from a board meeting at Quaker Chemical Corp. and was heading back to New York City for a board dinner hosted by Ultralife Batteries Inc. It's been a circuitous route from the dance studio to the boardroom. For Barron, its all been about adaptability and a good smattering of luck.

In January of this year Ultralife Batteries added Barron, affectionately known as "Tosh" to friends and colleagues, to its board, becoming its first female director. As Barron tells DIRECTORS & BOARDS, "I'm not into big names for name's sake. Here's a small company hoping to become a bigger company with lots of opportunities and lots of challenges. A lot of the interesting board assignments, I think, are not in the traditional Fortune 50 or Fortune 500 companies."

Joseph C. Abeles, a founder of Ultralife Batteries who has served as its treasurer and one of its directors since 1991, was in on the decision-making process to bring Barron on the board. "Hopefully she will bring a scholastic approach because she teaches at the Stern School of Business. And hopefully she will also have an effect as a woman on the board' he says. "The company is growing and we should have a woman's approach instead of the old boy network."

The distinction of being the first female director is something that Barron, Clinical Associate Professor of the Leonard N. Stern School of Business of New York University and former senior executive at Xerox Corp., has held before. In 1989, she was the first woman appointed to the board of Quaker Chemical, a 70-year-old maker of custom-formulated chemical specialty products headquartered in suburban Philadelphia. Later she...

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