Connie Barclay

administrative assistant, Sense of Vocation program

During the late 1960s and early ’70s when I was experiencing college, life for women as we knew it was beginning to change. Upon entering my freshman year at a small Lutheran liberal arts college, I was stunned to see 16 pages of rules for women in the student handbook and one page for men! But by the next year, rules about dorm hours and dress codes were relaxed. Women began to have a voice in their futures, but it still was very definitely a man’s world.

I was lucky because my parents always expected me to go to college. My father insisted, after my years of studying French, that I should go to France to study, which I did my junior year. Very few study-abroad programs existed at the time, and the few of us who tried it were basically abandoned and left to fend for ourselves. It was extremely difficult at times, but I learned to be independent, tenacious, and more culturally astute. I studied voice with an ancient, kindly French prima donna who could still belt out the high notes, and I went to as many concerts and art galleries I could manage.

Upon returning to the States, I finished my music education degree at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. In the meantime, I married, and after one year of teaching music at a rural high school and middle school, left teaching to start my family. I do not regret one minute of giving up my career to raise my children; they are fine men now, and I consider them my greatest contribution to society. I never completely gave up working and teaching: I directed church choirs, gave private voice lessons, and taught adjunct music education and French at a local college.

When our youngest son was four, I completely changed course and opened a small gourmet food store, followed a year later, by a specialty bakery. Being a woman, there were still times that I was ignored by vendors. They soon learned, however, that I could hold my own. After some time, my husband joined me in the same complex, managing an art gallery. Between the two of us and with our faithful employees, we marketed our businesses all over the region, working long hours. In the bakery we made all of our items from scratch, using family favorite recipes. We served lunch every day, worked with a nutritionist, catered many events, and developed a mail-order business. At the same time, I served on numerous boards, sang in choirs, and participated in the children’s activities. But, after a few years, the strenuous pace began to take a toll on my physical and mental health. I wasn’t Super Woman after all! I needed to make a change. After two additional very stressful years, we finally sold our business, and I began to work at an import gift store, part-time at first.

In the two years of working part time that followed, I was able to regain the balance in my life; to understand I needed time for myself, time for my neglected family and friends, time for a fuller spiritual life. Eventually, however, life and looming college tuition indicated I needed to work full time again. I took on more responsibility at the retail import store, eventually becoming co-manager of the retail and mail-order business.

And that leads us to Luther College. My husband took a position in Campus Programming here, and, of course, I came, too. A position opened up at Luther as a part-time secretary of the newly Lilly-funded Sense of Vocation program. I knew taking the job was somewhat of a step down, but that’s OK. I had other things I wanted to do. We have remodeled an older home. I now have time to read and enjoy other hobbies. I have time to invest in my church life. After a year or so, I could see that this “vocation” emphasis was going to be a part of the fabric of this college and that I could actually use my skills as a businesswoman, an event planner, and salesperson to enhance it. It has been a real pleasure to meet and work with so many fine people on the faculty and staff at Luther. But Vocation V 10 oices at Luther College the greatest joy has been getting to know students, watching them grow into adults, who will tackle the world’s tough problems with a sense of purpose, grace, and tolerance. And women of this generation have a real voice in the work ahead!

Connie Barclay