12 U-High girls

U-High Girls

Bonnie Thornton Dill, ’61, and Carol Aldrich Barkin, ’61, recently came together with fellow classmates to make a difference for future alumni. Thornton Dill is a professor in the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland. Barkin, the author of more than 40 books for adults and children, lives in New York and is a Harvard graduate.

In 2021, calling themselves “12 U-High girls from the Class of ’61,” the women made a gift for their 60th reunion, in honor of five classmates who had died.

Some of the “12 girls” had grown up in Hyde Park and some, like Thornton Dill, lived outside the neighborhood but spent many years hanging out near campus. At their 50th Lab reunion, someone suggested a brunch after the event and the women, as Thornton Dill puts it, “started catching up on the last 50 years of our lives.” They began to reconnect, talking, says Barkin, “about life, love, art, the world.”

Over the last decade, Thornton Dill says, they have all “discovered that there were a lot of things we had in common from our Lab experience. The values we learned at Lab, including the importance of education, and of higher education, were values we had all carried with us.” Barkin describes how Lab influenced her career: “From English teachers at Lab, I learned a love of clear and elegant writing, and an understanding of the power good writing can have in our lives and the unfailing pleasure it can offer us.” Indeed, after U-High, many of the women became PhDs, teachers, or writers.

As the group approached their milestone reunion in 2021, Thornton Dill suggested they make a collective gift to Lab. She recounts, “Everyone gave generously, in a way that was meaningful to them, in an outpouring of gratitude for Lab, for our experience of school, and for our friendships with each other.” The women decided to direct their gift toward financial aid. Barkin explains, “We all felt that we had benefited from Lab and wanted at this stage of our lives to give something back. We wanted our gift to support scholarships because it was important to all of us that students’ access to Lab not be limited by their families’ means.”

On the process of making the group’s gift, Barkin reflects, “Part of what’s been so good about arranging this gift has been realizing how strong the friendships that I made at Lab are and continue to be. Do you know that feeling when you don’t see a friend for a long time and then you see them again and realize that you still have the same strong connection? This is something about my Lab experience that I’ve treasured over so many years.”

For anyone who has watched friendships blossom at Lab, this story of connection resonates, inspiring hope for the future of the institution and for its thousands-strong body of alumni.

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