Barbara has been such a leader for such a long time. I know Barbara because before I came to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, I ran the cable industry’s educational foundation, Cable in the Classroom. I was elected president of the Trinity College alumni association and during that time Barbara was on the Trinity board of trustees. I would occasionally see her at an event, and knew who she was, but there was no relationship.
In 2001, I interviewed for this job as executive director of Cable in the Classroom, and the first day I went to NCTA for interviews and one of the people who interviewed me was Barbara. I knew our connection, although we didn’t know each other well, and we had a great conversation that day. And I know that after that interview she said to others in the decision-making zone, this woman really knows how to get things done.
I went to work for Cable in the Classroom and it was a wonderful job. She and I became good friends. She was a huge help to me, as she has been to so many other people. When my term as head of the alumni association was over, I was asked to serve on the board of trustees and I served with Barbara for one year, and then I became head of the board of trustees, which I still am.
When I first got to NCTA, she was fabulous. She is the kind of person who just knows how things work. In every organization, there is the go-to person who knows how to get things done. … And that was Barbara.
She was very generous with her time and with her advice, really helpful in terms of trying to sort out a problem, very even-keeled. And a fabulous cook. Like many fabulous cooks, she’s quite a food hound, so it would be great to go to lunch or dinner with her, because she’s always trying new things.
Once there was a staff party at NCTA, and there was a really hot new sushi restaurant on Dupont Circle. We go to the party, and Barbara had their sushi chefs in the NCTA conference room serving up sushi. The thing is that it was a smart move: They were new in the neighborhood, so I’m sure she got them to do it for a song, because it was great exposure for them. And it was great for us.
That is Barbara — generous and inventive, with a tremendous amount of energy and an unbelievable work ethic. In fact, an extraordinary work ethic. Sometimes I’d have to go in on a weekend … and there was Barbara’s car.
We haven’t seen each other for a while, but I know she and I will go out sometime and we’ll pick up exactly where we left off. I feel very much in touch with her. n
Peggy O’Brien is senior VP for educational programs and services, Corporation for Public Broadcasting.