Barry J. Feld
Class of 1976
Barry Feld has achieved what many budding business leaders only dream
about: He worked his way up the corporate ladder to become the CEO and
president of a multi-million dollar retailer based in sunny Oakland,
Calif. But Feld is also what many community colleges dream about: He's a
successful alumnus who recognizes the significance of his first
higher-education experience, and is anxious to help provide current
students with the same academic foundation and personal support that
made such a difference in his life.
A native Baltimorean, Feld was on a fairly typical educational track.
After graduating from high school, he planned to go on to a traditional
four-year college or university. But his family fell on financial hard
times, and tuition money was in short – actually, non-existent – supply.
Not one to let adversity stand in the way of progress, Feld reassessed
his situation and enrolled at then-Essex Community College to continue
his education. Feld's completion of a certificate program in optical
science technology at CCBC, followed by his graduation from the Stanford
University Executive Management Program, created the necessary
foundation for what would become a stellar career in business
management. Achieving progressively senior management positions, Feld
made his mark in the vision care industry. He worked for Pearle Health
Services for 10 years, followed by a stint as president of Frame-n-Lens
Optical, the largest chain of retail optical stores in California.
Subsequent top management positions at other vision industry firms led
Feld to PCA International, which he and his management team developed
into the largest operator of portrait studios in North America. As
president and chief executive officer of PCA International, Feld was
responsible for the operation of more than 3,000 studios in retail
stores and supercenters in five countries.
His contributions to the eye care industry earned Feld the honor of
being named "Man of Vision" by the Vision Council of America in 1997.
The award recognized Feld for his 20 years of ongoing contributions to
the eye care industry, specifically his leadership in building three of
the top 10 eye care chains in the nation. Success in this international
retail venue brought Feld to where he is today: chief executive officer
and president of Cost Plus World Market (www.worldmarket.com), a leading
importer and retailer of casual home living and entertainment products,
operating 276 stores in 34 states. Feld took over the held of Cost Plus
World Market in October 2006. His rise to corporate leadership at a
relatively young age – he achieved his first presidential position at
the age of 29 – qualified Feld for membership in the Young Presidents'
Organization. Dedicated to developing "better leaders through education
and idea exchange," the YPO also has a strong service component, one
which Feld heartily embraced. Through the YPO, Feld is involved in a
number of philanthropic efforts, including building homes for the
homeless and supporting needy families during the holiday season. Feld
is also an active supporter of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital,
the American Heart Association, Lions Sight and Hearing Foundation and
Prevent Blindness America.
2006 is a milestone year for Feld. The celebration of his 50th birthday
has caused him to take pause, and think about where he's come from and
how he will make his mark in the world. "I started thinking about the
money troubles my family had when I was a teenager, and how I had to
grow up in a hurry," Feld says. "It occurred to me that community
college was a real life saver for me. It was a great start, and was –
still is – one of the best values in education." Feld realized that
there are young people today in the same financial bind he was in 30
years ago. "I thought about kids who would be writing off college,
thinking there was no way they could afford to go," he explains. "I'm at
a place in my life where I can help." And help he has. Earlier this
year, Feld made a generous contribution to the CCBC Foundation,
establishing an ongoing fund earmarked for talented business students
who need financial assistance to pay for college. But his commitment to
the Community College of Baltimore County does not end with the writing
of a check. Feld is working with college staff to offer a promising CCBC
business student a formal internship with Cost Plus World Market in
California in the summer of 2007. Plans are also in the works to offer a
similar internship opportunity at CPWM's distribution center in Norfolk,
Va. next year. "This is a great lifeline to get going," says Feld.
"Community college helped me through a very rough time in my life. I'd
like to help CCBC provide that same kind of support to other students in