Many of the 200 alumnae and students who crowded into the James Room on a Saturday in early December broke into hoots and hollers when actress Lauren Graham ’88 arrived for a campus talk. Graham is known for her role as the quirky, fast-talking single mom Lorelai Gilmore on the TV show Gilmore Girls, about a mother-daughter duo. The show, set in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, is beloved across generations and was recently rebooted on Netflix with a four-part miniseries.

Graham’s talk, during which she was interviewed by Jennifer Fondiller ’88, Barnard’s dean of enrollment management, centered on community, sisterhood, and self-confidence. Graham reminisced about her college days and the many jobs she had before landing her big break. She arrived at Barnard as a transfer student from New York University and joined the Metrotones, Columbia’s then-new, all-female a cappella group, and appeared in plays and musicals, which ended up putting her behind in her academic life. “I’m sure they’ve (rightly) buried my transcript somewhere far below the 1 train at 116th Street and Broadway,” Graham says in her new memoir, Talking as Fast as I Can.  

Gilmore Girls holds a special place in the hearts of many Barnard women. Lots of Esme Ablaza ’20’s friends “watched the show with their moms when they were growing up,” she says. Ablaza was one of several students who landed a seat by lottery at the sold-out event, which was sponsored by the Young Alumnae Committee.

As alumnae gushed to Graham about what the show has meant to them, one woman asked about the risks she had taken in her career and how she conquered self-doubt. Graham’s advice? “You have to push those feelings aside and just go for it.” Excellent advice for all of us.

— Jennifer Altmann /