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Barclay Jackson

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Barclay JacksonInterviewer: Please tell us a little about yourself.

I graduated from Chatham in 1970 as a Theater major. Chatham had very strict liberal arts requirements so I received a broad and comprehensive education. I went on to graduate school in theater, which was a disaster; as you can imagine, it was the 70’s, I was in Los Angeles, and everything centered around sex, drugs, and rock n roll. The scene was very alternative and counter-culture, and I left after 2 terms when my director told me I was “too intellectual and too refined”. After leaving, I went to visit a friend in San Francisco and had a striking realization on the airplane. I had a freeing moment when I realized that I didn’t have to be a theater person.

I spent the next decade making a living any way I could, and then did some graduate work in Psychology in Vermont where I had connections with family and friends. I found after a while that I didn’t like counselling, so decided to go to law school. I prepared to take the law boards and got back into studying mode, trying my best to figure things out. I went to Vermont law school and graduated in 1983. Law was a perfect fit for me because it interweaved my theater and counselling background together. The court room was a lot like a stage, and while advocating for someone, you had to put on your best performance. It also involved a lot of counselling with your clientele; they don’t call it ‘counsellor at law’ for no reason! Thankfully, I managed to pay off my law degree by 1995.

I’ve always been a person to see life as opportunities and adventures, and one big thing that I got from Chatham was the sense that I could achieve anything, as long as I studied and prepared well. I didn’t want to become a typical New York lawyer without a work-life balance, and set some limits for myself for once, which is not always a bad thing. I worked as a judicial law clerk and moved to New Hampshire to practice law in a private practice. I soon switched to working for a corporation, before pursuing a career in public interest law with the New Hampshire State Public Utilities Commission. A lot of my work then involved facilitating and negotiating with large telecommunications corporations, with a focus on telecommunications law. It was an hour commute each way, so I decided to leave that after a while and started up a nonprofit that focused on biodiesel.

I have always been a strong feminist and have worked on behalf of women’s interests and rights my whole life, and the thing I’m most proud of is helping to establish Womenaid of Greater Portsmouth in 2005. Our mission was simple: we wanted to help those people and families who had suffered a small financial loss, which could be overwhelming to them. Our fundraising centered on a few signature events each year, and many smaller house parties, which provided about 70% of our annual funding. What’s very cool is that within 10 years, those small gatherings raised enough small donations to provide assistance with around half a million dollars for families in need.

Interviewer: That’s wonderful and inspiring! Thanks for sharing that with us. I’m happy to know Chatham left you with a sense of being able to achieve anything through preparation, studying, and a strong work-ethic. How would you describe Chatham now?

Chatham has evolved as much as I have since 1970. When I was there, it was a wonderful, safe world.  I remember at one of his first talks given to the freshman class, President Ted Eddy laid out the idea that the college was in loco parentis "in the place of a parent". We had housemothers in the dorms, strict hours, we wore skirts to dinner (even in winter), and if we were ever late, we went in front of social boards and had to explain; it was sweet in a lot of ways. I’d now describe Chatham as an exciting, vibrant and energetic place of learning that has risen to be completely in the 21st century. Although I haven’t spent much time there in its present iteration, I’ve spoken to many students and they always say that they really love it. It still seems to be an exciting place to learn.

Interviewer: What do you wish others knew more about Chatham?

I wish that people perceived more strongly the high standards that Chatham has always held. Our academic standards are superb. I lived in New England where there were a lot of colleges, and I get a sense people don’t appreciate the caliber of Chatham. My sister went to Wellesley and my brothers went to Middlebury and that was always touted as a pinnacle of success; yet, I really think that I got an absolutely excellent education at Chatham, which has always served me very well.

Interviewer: How has Chatham impacted your life?

The fact that I went to a women’s college, although not initially a conscious choice on my behalf, made me a stronger feminist. I was used to being given the dignity and attention of someone with a valued opinion. At other places, I didn’t feel that. At law school, after 10 years of being at Chatham, I still had people referring to me as a girl; that seems petty now but I just wasn’t used to it. I have a twin brother, and we were raised at a time when boys were treated very differently to girls, so there was some competition, but Chatham gave me the confidence and sense that I could be a leader and do whatever I wanted.

Interviewer: I’m glad to hear it! Is that why you started to support Chatham?

Interestingly enough, when I went to school, it was known to have a large endowment at the time because the Mellons supported the school. I never recalled the school doing anything to encourage philanthropy from the alumni back then. The school took care of us, and it never really made us think we needed to support it. I felt no need to give money to the college. We once had a song contest, and I recall us writing a song where one of the lines we sang was, “If we bankrupt Mellon, there’s always H.J. Heinz!”

But that all changed when one day, at the back of the Alumni Recorder, I saw my classmates named as donors. At that point, I knew I wanted to be a part of my class efforts and give to support the school. So, that’s why I first gave to support Chatham.

Interviewer: How do you feel when you support your alma mater?

I want to help. Due to the benefit of hindsight and the evolution of Chatham, I know that giving is important. I saw in the 80’s that the campus started suffering financially and the school seemed to be diminishing. Then came along President Barazzone, who brought with her a sense of mission and excitement to the college. During her tenure, I felt very good about supporting my alma mater. I knew my gift was helping to shape the college into more of what I thought it should be. That’s how I feel now. I can make a difference in sustaining this excellent institution. With the women’s institute starting, it was important for me to continue supporting Chatham.

With the inclusion of men in our undergraduate program, I saw an opportunity of bolstering and supporting our vision. I had a strong feminist perspective and received many benefits from coming to an all-female college. I wanted there to be a consistent and concerted effort to incorporate those ideals and perspectives into the men that come to Chatham. On that note, in the 1980’s, a lot of all-female colleges were forced to go coed due to finances, and the feeling I got back then was that the men knew they were coming in to save these schools. The fact that we kept the school from going coed back then and the many years since was a masterstroke because, by waiting as long as we could, and by growing the institution before going coed, it proved that the college can do something for the men instead of bringing the men in to do something for the college.

Interviewer: That’s such an interesting way of looking at it. You’ve also decided to support your alma mater in a different way through a planned gift. Why did a planned gift work for you instead of an outright gift?

It’s magic! I don’t have a ton of money. Yes, I made a salary as a lawyer and have a small pension plan, but I can’t make a big difference right now without compromising my own financial security. A planned gift offers a chance to make a big difference without having to sacrifice my own financial stability. I also have a say in exactly where my gift will go, so I’m making a gift to the women’s institute. This way, I get to support a part of the University that I think is a great addition, so it works to everybody’s interest.

My husband and I don’t have children because we married late, but we have nieces, nephews and siblings that we still want to provide for. By doing this as a percentage of our final estate, we can still leave gifts for family. We decided to divvy things up into thirds- a third to each generation, and then the remaining third will go to the organizations we want to support. It’s an amazing opportunity. You can give, and generously, to support whatever your greatest cause is, whether it’s Chatham or not, so it’s a win-win situation. The best thing about it is that it’s not going to hurt me financially. I’ll also add that if you have nothing else to give in terms of stocks or cash or a retirement plan- as a homeowner, if nothing else, that’s still something that is a fair bit of change and you can make a big difference to your loved ones and favorite causes through a planned gift! It just tickles me that I’m able to do this. Who knew planned giving could make this opportunity possible for me? It just puts a smile on my face.