Angela Bentley ’18 happened to be on a cruise in Alaska when she got the news: actress and author Lauren Graham ’88, perhaps best known for her role as quirky, fast-talking single mom Lorelei Gilmore on the hit show The Gilmore Girls, would be talking to Barnard’s first-year class at the New Student Orientation Program (NSOP).
“I was jumping up and down,” says the first-year from Squim, Wash., who scored a seat in the front row to hear Graham reminisce about her Barnard days. Graham spoke as part of the Alumnae Book Club, an orientation event at which first-year students read a book by an alumna, who then speaks to the new class. Graham recently published her debut novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe.
Graham entered The Diana Center Oval to loud cheers from the newest students, many of whom were Gilmore Girls devotees. On stage, she shared memories, many of which drew audience laughter. “I was in…the Metrotones, which was some of the best fun I had in school. We were an a cappella group who inexplicably gave out macaroni necklaces and condoms—I don't remember why. It was the 80s; it felt very hip.” And, “I got a job one year at the law library, because I thought it would be a great place to meet guys. It wasn’t.” Graham, an English major and still a voracious reader, also reminisced about “all the books I hardly had time to read,” her dorm room adjacent to a squeaky elevator, and the now-shuttered eatery Columbia Bagels.
However, “It was so many of the things I did that had nothing to do with school that gave me these incredible experiences,” she said, citing “life changing” trips to the Broadway and off-Broadway shows. She urged students not to work so hard they forget to venture beyond the campus gates. “[It] will really bring you incredible gifts if you get out there and use not only this experience at school, but use the city too. As you grow older, as you grow up here, both things will be a part of you forever.”
Before the event, Graham had dinner in Sulzberger Tower with about 10 Student Government Association members and NSOP organizers, where they chatted about everything from social media to favorite ice cream flavors. After her Diana Center talk, Graham signed books and posed for photos with students, who offered high praise. Haley George ’18 of Lewes, Del., called seeing Graham in person “a childhood dream come true.” Michaela Schwartz ’18 of Brookline, Mass., said she first learned about Barnard after becoming a Gilmore Girls fan and being curious about Graham’s career. “A lot of women you see on TV dumb down and she never does that. She’s fearless. She’s done everything and hasn’t let anything hold her back.”
As the 2014 Alumnae Book Club author, Graham joined a 14-year tradition upheld in recent years by alumnae authors Edwidge Danticat ’90; Anna Quindlen ’74; Jeanette Walls ’84; and Marisha Pessl ’00. She also laughed at the book club tradition of printing the alumna author’s yearbook photo on a button, to be given out to all book club attendees. “This is so horrible, and also it's so wonderful, because it reminds me of a time when I didn't understand hair products,” she joked.