More than 1,350 alumnae, family members, and friends flocked to Barnard for Reunion 2016, and they were eager not just to reminisce, but also to participate in lively discussions on topics ranging from personal reinvention to culinary creativity. Professors explained global urbanism and arctic ice, a writer discussed her craft, and alumnae storytellers enchanted the audience with their tales.

“A Cornucopia of Culinary Talents: Barnard Women in Food” brought together alumnae to talk about working in various aspects of dining. In front of a packed crowd at the Julius Held Lecture Hall, moderator Melissa Clark ’91, a food columnist for The New York Times , recalled the difficulty she had convincing people that “food writer” was a job. “People said, ‘Do you want to be a food critic?’ I wanted to write about how food is a lens for the world, and it just was not done.”

Illustration by Marina Munn

But by the time Kaitlin Orr ’16 graduated, the landscape was far different. Orr began a food blog during her sophomore year—and later created an Instagram account—that was “just my personal journal of food,” she says. Today, she is invited regularly for meals at restaurants in the hope that she will post on Instagram about them, she told the crowd. (Her blog is carnivorr.com.)

Liz Neumark ’77, the founder and CEO of Great Performances Catering, pointed out that “food is still male dominated. We have a lot of work to do.” Sue S. Chan ’06 cofounded the Toklas Society, a not-for-profit group for women in food and hospitality that helps them find inspiration, mentorship, and community. “I felt I didn’t have the information and knowledge that I needed to move up in my career,” she said. Dana Jacobi ’66, a cookbook author, food writer, and blogger, urged those in the audience to “make an effort to patronize restaurants where a woman is a chef or an owner—you need to make the choice to support women around food.”

At other presentations, bestselling novelist and editor Elizabeth Benedict ’76 discussed her journey as a writer, and four professors gave micro-lectures on art history, environmental science, urbanism, and monetary systems. A panel on “Ramping up for a Meaningful Next Chapter” featured former Barnard president Judith Shapiro as well as alumnae.

Hundreds gathered at the Event Oval in the Diana Center for the annual favorite Live Alumnae Storytelling Performance, with the 2016 theme “It All Comes Back to Barnard,” hosted by NPR’s Ophira Eisenberg and produced by the Peabody-winning storytelling organization The Moth. Judith Gold Stitzel ’61 told a story about combating envy while at Barnard, Ruth Abusch-Magder ’91 described a revelation she had about her capabilities, and Jamil Higley ’96 recalled overcoming grief. Said Eisenberg, “These are memories from their time at Barnard that have stayed with them forever.”

alumnae