You've Got a Friend
Barnard women are a special breed. And whether they attended the College decades ago or in the past few years, their Barnard bond draws them together. Alumnae find that wherever they go, they feel an immediate kinship upon meeting a Barnard woman. In many cases, that spark develops into a deep attachment across generational lines. In the following pages, we profile four pairs of alumnae who epitomize the way the Barnard spirit brings women together.
In a bare-bones conference room in Santa Monica, a pair of political junkies spent hours calling voters on flip phones on behalf of a candidate for the state senate. They laughed when they were rebuffed—“I don’t care about this election!”—and celebrated when they hit pay dirt: a voter who agreed to support their candidate.
“Phone-banking is so much better when you can do it with a friend,” says Kate Pynoos ’09 of dialing voters with Barbi Appelquist ’98.
Though they attended Barnard a decade apart, both women developed a passion for politics on Broadway and 117th Street. Their paths into the political world had similar trajectories. Both cut their political teeth working for a Clinton—Appelquist registered voters for Bill, while Pynoos was a summer intern for Hillary. Both went to law school and now work in fields that keep them connected to politics. The two first crossed paths a few years ago, when Pynoos discovered on Facebook that a Barnard alumna—Appelquist—was running for the state senate in Pynoos’ Los Angeles district. Though Pynoos was living in Geneva at the time to study international law, she wrote to Appelquist and volunteered to help.
The pair struck up a correspondence, and Pynoos edited some campaign materials for Appelquist, who lost the race, an unusually competitive Democratic primary. With Pynoos back in California for the general election, the two joined forces to make calls for the candidate who beat Appelquist. “It’s motivating to have a friend who shares these passion projects,” she says. “We have so much in common because of Barnard, so that makes the connection much stronger.”
On a late afternoon in the fall of 2015, 16 women who had attended Barnard in vastly different eras—the 1950s and the 2000s—gathered for an afternoon tea that was the result of a meeting of the minds of Roz Paaswell ’59 and Alex Loizzo-Desai ’09. The pair had met the year before at a Reunion lunch for the two classes and had been looking for ways to foster more connection.
“It’s really a testament to the strength of our Barnard connection: we’re always trying to learn from other women, even if there’s a big age gap between us,” says Loizzo-Desai.
As the two women rearranged furniture and set out food for their fall tea for the two classes, held at Paaswell’s home, they fell into an intimate conversation about their lives. They found unexpected points of similarity, such as both having married at a young age.
“I got married when I was a junior at Barnard, but that was normal then,” says Paaswell, who was surprised to learn that Loizzo-Desai wed at 25. They discussed how Loizzo-Desai balances career and marriage. “Today, women have so many more challenges, and it was interesting to learn how she handles them,” Paaswell observes.
In 2010, Wendy White ’81 and Vanessa Garcia ’01 spent 10 hectic days together in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the world’s largest arts festival. Sharing a two-bedroom walkup with a friend and Garcia’s sister, the pair threw together meals of hard-boiled eggs and spaghetti in the few spare minutes when they weren’t promoting and performing the plays that had brought them there. In the streets of Edinburgh, where performers vie for spectators, White donned a yellow jumpsuit to catch the eye of potential audience-members while Garcia spun a hula-hoop. Together, they spent the days shimmying in the street and the evenings performing.
It was “exhausting and exhilarating—it almost felt like this adventure out of time,” Garcia says. “We were in this amazing city, spending pretty much every second together, and it brought us closer together.”
The two first bonded over their artistic endeavors: Both women are playwrights and visual artists. They had just connected through a Barnard listserv in the fall of 2007 when White impulsively invited Garcia on a trip to Amsterdam, where White was producing a play at a festival.
“I just felt this genuine immediate spark, and I thought, maybe she’ll think this is odd, but why not ask her to come with me?” White says. Less than an hour later, the response from Garcia came back: “Yes.”
Both of the women’s fathers had passed away shortly before they met, and as they prepared for their trip to Europe, Garcia found herself drawing on White for support. “Not many friends—and certainly not people you’re just working with—understand what it’s like to be in mourning and can respond the way you need,” Garcia says. “But Wendy was just this incredible well of empathy.”
Back at home in Florida, White became a regular at Garcia’s Christmas and Thanksgiving celebrations. Despite living an hour’s drive from each other, they made a point of meeting once or twice a month to catch up over dinner. They refer to each other by nicknames: Garcia is “Lady V,” and White is “Hollywood,” a version of a nickname she had as a child.
In 2010, Garcia moved to California to pursue a PhD, but she and White remain close. The two continue to draw artistic inspiration from each other, even from a distance: during a recent work crisis, White texted Garcia for help, and Garcia responded swiftly with “pages of resources, so many things that I needed—it was a lifesaver at a really tough moment,” White says.
When White and her husband were putting the finishing touches on their new home in Pine Island, Fla., last year, Garcia was their first visitor. During her stay, Garcia pulled out her recorder to begin a new project: interviewing White for an essay about her life and work. With the tape rolling, they sat outside over a couple of beers and talked into the evening.
“We always circle back to each other,” White says. “We might not be family by blood, but we’re the family we’ve chosen for ourselves, and I think those bonds are just as strong.”