This week, for our final interview post of the semester, we’ll be spotlighting one last EU grad—Barbara Burger, class of ’71. Barbara graduated from Eastern Baptist College with degrees in Anthropology and Sociology, as well as a minor in psychology, having transferred to Eastern her second year at college. Barbara is now retired and living in scenic Santa Barbara, CA, sandwiched between sweeping mountains on one side and the roaring Pacific Ocean on the other. The journey from Eastern undergrad to Santa Barbara retiree was one great adventure.
Barbara came to Eastern excited for classes with renowned grad Tony Campolo, having previously heard him speak and been enraptured. Once a part of his classes, Barbara was not let down and was deeply influenced by her courses with Tony. After soaking up as much wisdom as she could from him and her other professors and graduating in May, Barbara joined the workforce.
She was hired by Executive Director of the Department of Adult Services in Bucks County, Pennsylvania shortly after graduation. Barbara worked there, in the county administration offices of Doylestown as the Coordinator of New Information Referral Services for Bucks County, hired to create a county-wide information and referral service. When Barbara wasn’t working, she was busy pursuing an additional degree in horticultural studies, which has been a lifelong interest. At her home in Santa Barbara, she has terrariums, does flower arranging, and keeps gardens.
However, before Barbara was able to finish her horticulture degree, she decided to leave her job of four years and move to Minnesota with some friends in the winter of 1975. There, she spent a year working in retail, but found that the job held no allure as a career and ultimately decided to re-uproot herself and move to her dream home, Santa Barbara, in the spring of 1976. Barbara reminisces on this move, saying “I can still remember the scent of orange blossoms as I drove across the California state border and thinking I had arrived in utopia…when I drove up Santa Barbara Street, seeing the palm trees, the crimson bougainvillea, and people sitting out on the grass reading the paper, I knew I had come home.”
Once in Santa Barbara, one of Barbara’s first positions was as a dispatcher for the Montecito Fire Department. She worked there for two years while she studied for her Master’s Degree in Public Service Administration at the University of Redlands, Alfred North Whitehead Extension.
Following the position with the fire department, Barbara worked at St. Francis Hospital in Santa Barbara as the Community Relations Coordinator, writing newsletters and serving as a public liaison while also running the Pro-Celebrity Golf Tournament (I guess you could now say she was a fundraiser, too) for over three years.
In the winter of 1984, Barbara was offered the opportunity to study abroad in Cambridge, England with a class from Santa Barbara City College. There (unrelated to her degree), she studied British history, literature, Shakespeare, and politics. She and her class traveled throughout the UK to Stratford on Avon, York, Edinburgh, and of course, London. During breaks in the semester and after its end, Barbara also took advantage of the opportunity to do some traveling on her own, visiting Holland, as well as other countries throughout Europe.
When Barbara returned to California in June having completed her coursework, she was not returning to any particular job or commitment and took advantage of the opportunity to spend the summer going on the adventures she had always wanted to. She visited Hawaii and camped in Yosemite—a thrilling continuation of the adventures of the past five months as she continued the search for the right job. She found it, she says, when Peter Garnick asked her to join the Santa Barbara Symphony’s team as Marketing Director. This, says Barbara, is when she found her niche.
Although the first year was incredibly demanding in how much needed to be done so quickly (e.g. finding a new Music Director and creating new graphics), Barbara found her interaction with musicians, volunteers, subscribers, and staff to be life-giving, making the
craziness worthwhile. After 28 years at the Santa Barbara Symphony, Barbara is officially retired, but says that she has never stopped growing.
She remains on five Arts Boards and committees and has also joined her fiancé, Paul, in a business renovating apartments and houses. It’s a huge undertaking, and a different kind of work, but is also enormously fulfilling as Barbara works with contractors and other professionals to complete projects and provide homes for people in a town where there is barely 1% vacancy.
In addition to these undertakings, Barbara works as the publicist for State Street Ballet, the resident professional company in Santa Barbara. She’s currently working to promote their annual Nutcracker performance and is also striving to find new and challenging ways to market the ballet.
All Barbara’s life, she says, “working with community, making situations better for others, [has been] a real passion.” This is plain to see, from her courses of study to the jobs she has undertaken, to the committees she works with, to the time she spends volunteering at the local church. Barbara has embraced Christ’s call to love and serve others and the world, and has made it uniquely her own, carrying it out distinctly over the course of her career and life.
For those just starting out after graduation, Barbara encourages them to look into the field they studied in college, as well as any related field (and what they’re most qualified for) and then begin knocking on doors. Barbara says that she’s “a big advocate of trying a lot of doors—they don’t open if they’re not supposed to! You have keep trying, because the right one will open, and each door will eventually lead you to where you’re meant to be. It’s being in the hallway and waiting for the door to open that’s the hard part.”
Barbara also describes herself as “a real believer in being guided.” She notes how important it is to really pay attention for the ways the Lord might be directing our paths. We have to be sensitive to that, and trust that we’re going to end up where we’re meant to be, even if it takes a pretty circuitous route to get there. Looking back, Barbara likes to quote a poem she once heard. It says: “I am the Poem I would have written.” And this, Barbara says, is how she sums up her journey. She cannot conceive of having lived a more beautiful life.