eath introduced itself to me at the end of my junior year, in 1966.
My friend Barbie Hume—Barbie of the infectious laugh, a graceful dancer, and so full of life—had a date at Williams College, the last before going home for the summer. On the way back to Skidmore, Barbie and her friends took a wrong turn. Even now I imagine everyone in the car laughing about whether they’d make it back before our 1 a.m. curfew. But as they turned around in a driveway, a truck collided with their car. Barbie never returned to Skidmore. She was taken directly to the hospital, where she died several days later.
Yet in a sense Barbie was with us the next year, when we were seniors. Skidmore did not move anyone else into the double room she was to have shared with Izzy Maccracken, but the empty bed wasn’t quite empty: it was Barbie’s bed.
And though she never got the chance to graduate, never got the chance to come to reunion—never got to do any of the myriad of things that all of us Skidmore alumni get to do—Barbie’s Skidmore connections were so important that her family created a student scholarship and a student prize in her memory, the prize to be given to a student who has shown outstanding personal growth at Skidmore
Even now, her Skidmore friends still hear from time to time about her family, we see her picture when we flip through our yearbook, and we remember her when we get together. When we go to the field house on campus, we see Barbie’s picture, taken in Sweden where she was an American Field Service student the summer after sophomore year.
Recently, those ties deepened and broadened again for me, and got me to thinking about the web that joins
all of us at Skidmore.
I was reviewing files on candidates for the Porter Award for Young Alumni Service. I was, as always, immensely impressed by the dedication of some of our youngest alumni volunteers. They serve in Skidmore clubs, on committees, and on the alumni board.
When I reached the final file my heart literally stopped for a moment: the candidate, Tony Llano ’97, had received the Barbie Hume Memorial Prize as a junior.
You have to know Tony to appreciate the enormous power of this connection and the emotional impact on me as I read the file, and as I talked to him several weeks later about Barbie—who she was, our wonderful connections together as students, and the enormity of her death that spring. Tony, an economics and business major at Skidmore, emigrated from the Dominican Republic and went to school in New York City, where he took part in a “student-sponsor partnership” that combines tuition support with one-on-one mentoring. Today Tony is an officer at Citibank and serves as a mentor for schoolchildren himself. One of the reasons he also volunteers for Skidmore—currently as the alumni board’s chair of diversity—is that he’s grateful for the opportunity to attend Skidmore and wants to give back to the college. This gentle, soft-spoken young man, who never says no when asked to serve Skidmore and always performs at the top level, is the embodiment of so much that Barbie meant to her family and friends.
Barbie’s family’s generosity—like that of all the others who have established named prizes and scholarships at Skidmore—not only honors her memory but creates on ongoing legacy that actively, directly connects alumni themselves across the years.