By Cathy Deal
Barbara Singer’s history is one of initiative. She likes to say that she majored in student activities while she was an undergrad student, because she dabbled in many different organizations and committees (while achieving academic success as an eventual Mortar Board member.
Barbara was heavily focused on Union Board committee work, in part due to the encouragement of a roommate, UB President Gail Ransom. Once
selected for the Board, 1970-71, Barbara concentrated on creating and guiding the Onion Theater with Russ Kennedy (UB 1971-72). The Theater was aimed at providing students who had a love for acting and live performance an outlet in the IMU. Performances ranged from an Open Mike evening to a readers’ theater as well as contests for one-act, student-written plays and musicals.
As Vice President on her second Board, Barbara’s time was in demand with internal management of Board event oversight and Board member dynamics as well as representing Union Board externally to a multitude of University constituencies. She served on a campus committee that installed advertising kiosks that saved campus trees from the clutter of paper event flyers, a major environmental concern at that time. She also represented students in November 1969 in Washington D.C. at the national Vietnam War Moratorium March.
From her Union Board years, Barbara followed a long and winding road. She worked a brief stint as a high school teacher after college, then went on to attend the IU Maurer School of Law, where she had the opportunity to use her undergrad major in French to translate medieval legal documents into English. This fusion of skills then led her to Cambridge University in England to complete advanced degree work in legal history, then back to the USA for employment in legal education in Miami, where several of her family members live. Today, she works as Associate Dean for Professionalism and Bar at St. Thomas University College of Law in Miami, Florida.
Teaching nonprofit law courses, among others, intertwined with Barbara’s background in dance, music, and the arts; her skills honed on Union Board in event planning, budget preparation, scheduling, report generation, negotiation, public speaking, and advocacy, among others, also equipped her to both participate in and teach others about the world of nonprofit activity. Significantly, she initiated the creation of and helped develop the Miami City Ballet, now a world-class institution. She has assisted other dance companies, and even composed a musical for her bar association. Barbara is an avid fan of guitar and keyboard, with annual attendance with friends at the New Orleans Jazz Festival and performances in New York, Toronto, and elsewhere by luminaries such as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Jon Batiste.
Barbara’s memorable travels also have included historic sites in the U.K., the Beatles’ Liverpool, and walking across the Zebra crosswalk at Abbey Road. Her student days at Trinity College at Cambridge were memorable. As one of only eight women in the college of 800 men, she was also coxswain for the first women’s rowing team. As she recalls, “We would go out to the Cam (River) very early in the morning to practice. Gliding down the Cam in the quiet morning mist was incredibly peaceful.”
Her athletic prowess extended to a role as starting pitcher for her law school co-rec softball team, probably a legacy of her lifelong affection for her Chicago Cubs. As Barbara recalls, “ I started going to Cubs’ games with my Aunt Lil when I was three or four years old. During Summers, my mother would drop me off at her parents’ house, and my aunt and I would hop on the L for a daytime game at Wrigley. During those days, the Cubs were cellar-dwellers, so we had the left-field bleachers largely to ourselves. I didn’t care if the Cubs won or lost if I got to spend time with my favorite aunt and see my hero, Ernie Banks.” There was a happy postscript. Barbara eventually met Ernie Banks, but for years “joined the constant refrains of true, die-hard, lifelong Cubs fans: ‘There’s always next year’ and ‘Let’s play two!’” Then the Cubs won the World Series, with Barbara in the stands at Wrigley to cheer on their magic.
Barbara credits her experiences through Union Board for enhancing her perseverance and initiative. She offers the following advice for current and future Union Board members: “Take advantage of the incredible opportunity that UB gives members to develop professional skills, to make professional contacts, and, especially, to make friends for life!”