Patricia Mallon ’63, a natural resources major, believes strongly that women’s colleges should continue not only to survive, but also thrive. “I really, really believe that single-sex education should be available,” she says. “It dismays me that several of the other [Seven Sister] schools have gone over to the other side. I thought if I could help, I want to do it.” Throughout the years, Mallon had supported Barnard. Then, her late husband discovered charitable gift annuities. After learning how they work, Mallon made a gift to Barnard in 2000, and followed it with additional gifts in 2006 and 2012. A retired librarian consultant, Mallon makes it clear she isn’t wealthy. She simply finds that gift annuities make good economic sense and allow her to provide for herself while also supporting a women’s college for future generations.

The way a charitable gift annuity works is that the donor makes a gift to the College of $10,000 or more and receives an immediate charitable tax deduction. The donor chooses the annuity beneficiary, often the donor herself, and Barnard then pays that person a fixed annual income for life at a rate based on his or her age at the time of the gift. It is possible to name up to two lifetime beneficiaries. An older beneficiary typically receives a higher rate of return, but any donor can establish a higher rate by deferring the annuity payouts to a future date. As an example, Mallon deferred payments on her first gift annuity until she’s 73, at which point she’ll receive payouts at a double-digit rate. She started receiving quarterly payments, though the terms of the payouts may vary, from her 2006 gift right away, and will begin receiving quarterly payments from her 2012 gift at the end of this year. The annuity payouts have the added benefit of being partially tax free. Upon the lifetime beneficiary’s death, any funds remaining in the gift annuity go to Barnard. 

Barbara Kelman Ravage ’67, an English literature major, is a freelance writer whose income varies greatly from year to year. After a particularly profitable 2009, her accountant advised her to make a major donation to offset her tax bill. She was about to turn 65, and retirement was on her mind. Ravage, who had only intermittently contributed to the College over the years, then decided it was the right time to make a gift to Barnard to set up an annuity. Another profitable period a couple of years later resulted in a second charitable gift annuity to Barnard. “At some point I realized that I have now given Barnard close to 10 times as much as my father paid for a year’s tuition back in the 1960s,” she says. “He is no longer alive and college tuition has increased more than tenfold, but I feel that in some way I am thanking him for making my Barnard education possible.”

Gloria Grubman Sandford ’44 believes that her Barnard education enabled her to meet some of the intense challenges she’s faced in her life. A self-described “nerd,” she was only 15 when she started college, but she relished Barnard’s intellectual atmosphere. “I couldn’t have found a more perfect environment,” Sandford says. “I was determined to become a successful woman and stand on my own two feet.” Her father always told her she might have to take care of herself someday; she wanted to be prepared to support herself and “be somebody,” as she puts it.

Following graduation, Sandford headed to California for graduate school, having earned a full scholarship. She returned to New York two years later with a master’s degree in political science/Latin American political affairs. Bilingual in English and Spanish, she became the official interpreter for the Venezuelan consulate. In time, she married and became the mother of three daughters. Then tragedy struck: Her husband of 18 years died of a heart attack, leaving her to raise their children—ages 3 to 12—on her own. Believing they needed her more than ever, she sought a solution that kept her at home but also provided the family with sufficient income. She went back to school and studied finance. “I took to that like a bird takes to flying,” she says proudly. A successful investor, she provided for her daughters, put them through college, and helped them buy their first homes.

Sandford had supported Barnard over the years, but her charitable gift annuity in 2007 was her first major gift, and she’s currently working out details for another. “Without the education that I got I never would have had the drive or the confidence to figure out what I had to do in my life alone with my girls,” she says. Mallon echoes a similar sentiment. “I was relatively shy and scared,” she notes, and describes her freshman year at Barnard as the best of her life. “My Barnard education…gave me self-confidence.”

For Ellen O’Brien Saunders ’63, a medieval-history major, coming to Barnard from a Midwestern public high school was initially a shock, but she learned what excellence is. When she ultimately took on the assignment of co-chair of the planned-giving subcommittee for her class reunion, she learned about the advantages of charitable gift annuities—resulting in her establishment of one in 2012. Saunders feels a lot of women are allergic to learning about money and financial planning; she encourages her friends and alumnae to read about annuities on Barnard’s website,, ask questions, and gather information. She thought carefully about her decision, finding it satisfying from both financial and emotional perspectives. “It helps me to think I’m making a contribution when I’m no longer around to make annual gifts,” Saunders says. “I’m giving the College some stability in its planning and its future.”

Somewhat intimidated by the accomplishments of some of her classmates (who include Erica Mann Jong and Martha Kostyra Stewart), Mallon avoided reunions until her 20th in 1983. At the final luncheon of Reunion weekend she looked around and saw a table for the class of 1933. “I thought, “Those women are 50 years out of college and they…look good,” spurring her to attend her 40- and 45-year reunions. “Now I’m here,” she adds. Thanks to her and others like her, the chances are good that many Barnard women will also reach that milestone. 

Additional reporting by Stephanie Shestakow ’98