Barbara Roche, Class of 1960
A member of the Class of 1960, Barbara Roche graduated from Stanford in 1956 and left for a career in television in Baltimore. Full of optimism and hope she was shattered when after two weeks she was fired by the television producer. Embarrassed to return to California, she found employment at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Here she thought about the direction of her life, aided by National Presbyterian Church, which she had joined. She came to the conclusion that the values she had been taught in the Community Methodist Church of her childhood, in the mining town of Ruth, Nevada, were bedrock.
What led Barbara to attend Princeton Theological Seminary happened after a retreat led by a Princeton seminarian (Frank Watson). In a conversation with him she dared to suggest that she also might attend seminary. He took her inquiry seriously and in a matter of days the application arrived, the church and presbytery approved. Barbara returned to California with plans to enroll in the fall of 1957. Her family could provide no monetary resources, but National sent a telegram offering financial assistance. Throughout the three years of school Barbara received generous assistance from the Seminary, worked at the university, and received loans from her congregation
“I attended Seminary during a time when the church was not very open to women serving in leadership roles. I am very grateful to Princeton Seminary, which gave me the knowledge and confidence to serve the church,” she said. After graduating, she received a scholarship to study for a year at the United Theological College in Bangalore, India, followed by participation in ecumenical work camps in Thailand and Burma. She returned to California and accepted a call to be director of religious education at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington. Other calls included area representative for the Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations to women in six Midwestern states; dean of students at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley; editor of Concern magazine in New York City, and finally editor of Horizons magazine and Bible study in Louisville. She was ordained as a ruling elder in 1968 by Edgewater Presbyterian Church in Chicago and as a teaching elder in 1974 by Chicago Presbytery. In 1984 she earned a D.Min. degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary.
After retirement in 1998, she did freelance editing for the denomination and wrote a chapter on the history of women’s ordination in the book Celebrating Our Call, ed. Patricia Lloyd-Sidle, Geneva Press, Louisville, 2006. She resides in Louisville.
Today, fifty-one years after graduating from PTS, Barbara still supports the annual fund. She has included the Seminary in her will. “I decided to give for several reasons,” she said. “In honor of the lifelong friends made at Princeton, in appreciation for the scholarships and work the Seminary gave me, and for the education that helped me through the years. I look at the future and ask, ‘What is essential for the world?’ I believe it is proclaiming the Gospel. And I think this strong institution will continue to be faithful to that calling in the years to come.”
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