Toasts

toastAs many of you know, Barbara was very fond of giving toasts in a variety of settings, whether it was a casual dinner, a holiday gathering, or a leadership retreat.  At such events Barbara would often spontaneously require everyone to participate in giving a toast, whether it was an employee, consultant, or innocent bystander.  As the company expanded and the gatherings and meetings grew larger, it became more difficult to insist that everyone provide a toast, so she came up with creative ways to incorporate toasts, including nominating the newest member of each team or submitting toast ideas in advance for a competitive “toast-off.”  In all the various forms of toasting that we’ve grown accustomed to over the years, the bottom line has been simple: toast someone or something that in some way moved you, whether it was to laughter or to tears.  We invite you now to join in Barbara’s tradition by using the “leave a reply” option below and offering a toast to Barbara.  Cheers!

54 thoughts on “Toasts

  1. Barbara, here’s to some very happy memories over the years, from family camping, to supporting each other as we raised our children, to working together. You inspired me to do better, to be better…in everything! I will miss you, my friend.

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  2. Dear, dear Barbara. I still cannot believe that you have left us on Earth and are now entertaining so many in Heaven. For those of us who have had the privilege of knowing you, working for and with you, and being your friend, so many of us thought that cancer would lose the fight with you again. If anyone could do it, someone with your indomitable spirit, courage, and perseverance would be the one to conquer cancer. You leave behind a family, close friends, your Connections family, and so many others devastated by your passing, but forever richer for knowing you. You were a bright light to so many, touching the lives of countless children across our country, and even the world. You gave them the opportunity that all of them deserved for a quality education. You fought for them when others wouldn’t. I learned so much from you, and I’m sure that I still haven’t comprehended all of it. You have forever changed me and many others in such important ways. Thank you for the immeasurable gift of your friendship, your mentoring, your leadership, courage, compassion, and passion. Three cheers to you, Barbara, for… a beautiful life, a life of importance, a life of grace, dignity, and achievement. With much love and admiration, David (Schmidt)

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  3. Never had the chance to meet you but I know your Spirit will live on. I am honored to be employed with this company , this job has really changed my life and now im able to provide for my family like a Mother of 2 Boys should. Take your wings Barbara for you are now at Rest.

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  4. I have never had the privilege of being gonged by Barbara after a “needs improvement” toast, but been lucky enough to have been a witness a few times. Barbara was not shy – dishes, spoons, glasses, hands, and/or playful hollering all made great gongs. Barbara was that person you meet that changes your life path. For those that personally got to see and be with her in action, we are forever grateful. For all others, her vision and mission has undoubtedly changed them. The way Barbara gracefully yet purposefully scanned a room, always mesmerized me. She was casually intense mixed with gentle and warm. Her words were always deliberate, honest, and poignantly chosen. Her actions were just as mesmerizing as her words and being. I was seated next to Barbara in an overstuffed conference room with many people we were meeting for the first time. I watched her carefully conceal a small slice of paper with a rectangle drawn on it under her hand. As each person introduced themselves and their role, she jotted down each name as they were seated and one word about their role, never looking down. As the meeting progressed, she referred to each person by name and knew exactly whom to direct her questions and concerns to. She operated with careful tact and gazelle-like precision. I left that meeting knowing 100% that my hunch was correct. Barbara was someone that I needed to continue to learn from and would forever change me as a professional.

    I have often referred back to lessons learned from Barbara when making important decisions. These are a few of my favorite things: do it the damn right way – not the fast/short/easiest/most pocket-filling…do it the damn the right way, even if that way may be temporarily messy or painful, be careful and care filled in all that you do and say, roll up your sleeves, don’t be afraid to be detailed and graphically honest when appropriate, have a well thought out plan, foster those around you to be the best they can be, recognize and invest in talent and potential, be your best self even when things are sucky, don’t make excuses for others bologna that needs to be addressed, edit then edit some more (she would be mortified by this piece) and have unwavering loyalty. Needless to say, I know Barbara was less than happy with me when I decided to move on with my vocational life. I forever will respect how she really treated those around her as family, no one walks away from the dinner table before the grand toast. I got it and still get it!

    I wrote Barbara an email a few months ago, not knowing her cancer had recurred until now. I felt compelled to let her to know what a difference knowing her has made in my life and how I still hold the CA (now CE) values very close in my heart. Regrettably, I never hit send. With a heavy heart, I get to share my thoughts as a toast right here (I know Barbara would appreciate the level of detail)…my fingers are crossed that there are no gongs (or dishware) in heaven. To all that have known, loved, and/or been moved by Barbara, hugs and more hugs.

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  5. During my first year with Connections, I had the privilege of meeting Barbara and being a demo virtual teacher at a conference in northern California. At dinner one night, I witnessed and participated in the Barbara-toast. I learned even newbies like me had to participate, so I’m definitely going to participate now. 9-something-ish years later, I am so grateful for the times I got to meet Barbara (impressed that she remembered my name) and for the influence she’s passed through all areas of our company. I have such pride in Connections and love to share stories with new team-members and outsiders of the upstanding, right things that have been done – thanks to Barbara’s leadership. Here’s to Barbara, and carrying on what she started.

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  6. I will always remember Barbara as someone who made me feel empowered as an educator. Here I am a simple English teacher, and whenever I had a chance to meet her, she would always ask for a hug, want to share in my successes, and want to learn more about how and what I was doing as a teacher. I have met few people so determined of purpose, good will, and intellect that molded all of these attributes together to make such a strong leader. The industry of education is certainly less without her, and I will personally miss not having the opportunity to do another toast with her. Here’s to Barbara, our leader, our teacher, and out friend.

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  7. I have been lucky enough to know Barbara for most of the 10 years that I have worked for CE. I have also been lucky enough to not be gonged during the toasts, though it was always a fear! Barbara has taught us all how to fight for what matters even if it wasn’t always comfortable. To always conduct ourselves in a professional and dedicated manner and to always speak up if something isn’t ok.
    I remember traveling with Barbara in Reno after a particularly terrifying landing at the airport. I was ready to rent a car and drive back home, Barbara was ready to head to Outback for steak. She never let anything phase her.

    Almost a year ago Barbara called me after hearing that I was fighting my own battle with cancer. The first 2 words out of her mouth were “this sucks”. And then, in typical Barbara fashion, she spent the next hour telling me everything I needed to ask the doctors, what I needed to make sure to ask for, and what to add to my diet. She remembered to check in with me frequently even though she was dealing with so much worse. Somehow I think she had way more hours in her day than the rest of us and she used them all to improve the company, the students, and her employees.

    I know we will all continue the direction Barbara set for us, but all I can say is “this sucks”. Cheers to Barbara for a life well lived, a battle courageously fought, and a legacy well earned.

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  8. I met Barbara in 2001, just before the first CA school opened. It was very clear to me early on that Barbara was a FORCE OF NATURE! whose intelligence, dedication and work ethic was matched by an equally big heart. I remember two stories in particular that illustrate both aspects of Barbara’s personality. The first: we were shooting a segment for ABC Network news, and Barbara, who had been slated to do an on-camera interview, had landed in the hospital with a concussion after falling from her horse. As we were feverishly planning for an alternate spokesperson, in waltzed Barbara, who had checked herself out of the hospital, against doctor’s orders. She then proceeded to give an incredible interview, with most of her answers done in one perfect take, much to the chagrin of the ABC reporter, who repeatedly flubbed her lines. The only way anyone would know anything was amiss was to notice upon close inspection that Barbara’s pupils were different sizes, thanks to her concussion! As for Barbara’s heart: a number of years ago a bunch of us PR types were on a conference call to discuss communications issues around a really unfortunate incident involving a family with CA students. Nothing to do whatsoever with us, or school, but a social services/family issue. Well, all of us, including me, focused in that call 100% on communications strategies and tactics and ‘to do’ lists… all of us, except Barbara, that is. Barbara closed that call by asking us all to pause for a moment, and hold the family in our hearts, because children were involved, and because the entire family was hurting.

    In my family, we call folks who participate 150% in life ‘swimmers,’ shorthand for ‘they swim in the stream of life.’ Boy, was Barbara ever a swimmer! I feel lucky to have known her, and will raise a glass to her whenever I read the following GB Shaw quote:

    “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”

    — Sandy Burke

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  9. I had the brief pleasure of meeting Barbara my first year with Connections. At the time I was working in the Elkridge warehouse. I remember the announcement being made that Barbara would be coming through for a visit and how big of a deal it was. When she arrived there was this radiating presence about her that is hard to describe. I remember while she was touring the warehouse she got a phone call that she had to take. Instead of heading for an office, conference room or break-room, she sat right down on one of the loading docks and took her call. That amazed me. Here is this successful, well dressed, well spoken CEO of this successful company sitting on a dirty loading dock swinging her feet and talking on the phone. That spoke volumes to me about Barbara’s character and personality and the type of company I was working for. After her phone call we spoke briefly. She asked me about my position with the company and what my experience working for Connections had been so far and why I chose to come to work with Connections. She seemed so genuine with everything she said and asked. Although the encounter with Barbara was very short lived it has stuck with me over my 5 years with Connections Education. I didn’t know her well but I believe that is the type of impact she had on most people. She was a pioneer in the world of education and she impacted countless lives. She will be missed greatly.

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  10. I have experienced the emotional grief of losing a loved one or a friend enough in my life. I find myself in new territory reconciling my grief over the loss of a role model and mentor. Sure, I have my personal connections with Barbara as we could relate about horses or my mother’s simultaneous battle with breast cancer years ago. However, I can easily say that I have never experienced the impact that a true role model would have on my life until I met Barbara. I can’t say that she and I spent an inordinate amount of time together through the years I have been with CE, but I can say that every moment I did spend in her presence was inspirational, career-shaping, and motivational. Never has one person ever had such an impact on my professional life. Barbara brought a unique essence to our culture, to our mission, to our family that cannot be “bottled” or easily manufactured. However, her special quality was highly contagious because it spread through our organization with an intensity and fervor that cannot be extinguished. Rarely in my life do I worry too much about someone’s opinion of me because I know opinions are always available and in abundance. However, Barbara was one of those few people whose opinion truly mattered. I hope and pray that we can continue to make her proud as we carry on her legacy.

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  11. Most of the conversations I had with Barbara were in a car, near an airport and all of them were in a hurry. But she always gave me her full attention. Nothing was more exciting than hearing Barbara say, “well, what do YOU think about that, Melissa?” She really wanted to know.

    When Barbara came to visit INCA in the spring of our second year, we presented her with a custom-made t-shirt that said “Hooo-sier favorite CA school? INCA!” Months later, she wore it on the cruise at the summer leadership retreat and when someone asked her why she was wearing an INCA shirt, she said “well, if INCA has the nerve to suck up and give me this shirt, I can sure have the nerve to wear it.”

    We have had our best start yet this year and I find myself wishing I could tell Barbara. Somehow, I think she’s still reading logs and scouring IAs. She knows. Cheers to a woman we should all try to emulate – as educators, as moms, as friends. Thank you, Barbara.

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  12. Unfortunately, I never had the privilege of meeting Barbara. I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who is willing to take a look at the way we’re doing things, not only in education but many walks of life, and ask, “Is this truly serving everyone?” If education is meant to serve the people, and I think it is, then when it doesn’t serve even 1 person it is no longer meeting its goal. I think Barbara believed that too. I only hope that I can continue to serve every student who comes through my class with that same purpose and drive.

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  13. Barbara Dreyer, the long-time CEO of Connections Education, died earlier this week. Not only is Barbara’s death a loss for her friends and family, but also for the education reform movement.

    Barbara was a tireless advocate for innovation in education and a compassionate woman who cared greatly about helping all students succeed. While K12 and Connections are viewed as competitors, even more we are partners in a greater cause to expand parent choice and educational opportunity for all children. On far more occasions than most know, K12 and Connections worked together to help bring new school options and choices to families across the country. Barbara always encouraged collaboration and teamwork among competitors within the industry – a mark of strong leadership. I was fortunate enough to have talked to Barbara on a number of occasions and, along with others, we talked about establishing an industry advocacy group. In every conversation, I found her to be one of the most insightful, passionate, and knowledgeable influencers in the education space.

    Many of us at K12 were fortunate to call Barbara a friend. Her professional accomplishments and contributions to the digital learning industry were significant and her passion for the work she so loved cannot be overstated. She was a formidable leader with strong views who never shied away from sharing her opinions, whether you agreed with them or not. Barbara led Connections Education with strength, grace and dignity, especially throughout her long battle with cancer. Her perseverance is her legacy.

    It is no exaggeration to say that many students across this country are benefiting today because of Barbara’s efforts, and while they may never have had the opportunity to know her, she left an indelible imprint on their lives.

    All of us at K12 Inc. extend our deepest condolences to Barbara’s family and friends, and to everyone at Connections Education. We commend you, Barbara, for all you’ve done to help children throughout your life. You will be missed.

    Nate Davis
    Chairman and CEO, K12 Inc.

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  14. There are few people who can leave such a footprint as Barbara did. I feel fortunate and am a better person because of knowing Barbara, if even for only a few short year. She is a wonderful woman who could accomplish anything, and thankfully, her heart led her to do great work for kids. Thank you, Barbara. You will be missed.

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  15. I guess the best place to start is at the beginning, so here goes. My brother and I miss our emails with Mrs. D very much, she last emailed in July, the 14th I believe and we were elated to hear she was doing fairly well and in good spirits. We had been busy doing community service over the summer break, a special something we’ve been doing for over 4 years now to flex our heart muscles. Mrs. D enjoyed hearing about our working for the elderly and disabled folks in our regional community, that was something she encouraged us to do with a pure heart and great vigilance.
    We were first introduced to Mrs. D purely as a simple test on my part to see if she was for real, so I emailed her and she replied, but not just to let me know I should be following some sort of excepted and structured protocol, she introduced herself with the flare of a mother waiting to hear from her child. I was someone important to her, I thought, she really cares about me as a person.
    Oh what a wonderful beginning to a nearly 4 year pen pal extravaganza. In short, Mrs. D quickly became our extended family and friend (kind of a spiritual mother if you will). Advice and encouragement abounded with our ongoing emails, I saw my spirits lift higher, I guess higher than one might expect from a trip to the principals office. What a wonderful journey we’ve had and I never expected it to end this way, but is the journey really over or has it just taken a new path?
    I started this thought in prayer and with tears in my eyes, I so miss my pen pal and I still feel like I could just email her directly, but her new journey begins without us.
    As long as we keep her teachings alive, Mrs, D is alive. Alive in all we do and how we reach the lives of those around us with a careful sort of openness found in the founder. I will miss my pen pal every night before I go to bed and every morning, when I check my email, she is a wonderful friend and a careful teacher. We love you Mrs. D and we always will. Thank you for thinking of me as someone important.

    Great Shalom (peace),
    Shawn Thomas Bailey

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      • Checking in with an update on the boys; both are doing fine.., we still hear Barbara’s voice of encouragement daily. Shawn is in a steel union and recently was offered a group leaders position in his shop (he will be a class 8 making about $20 an hour; he bought a 2010 Lincoln to celebrate). Jesse is also progressing at light speed where he works for an international company (Jess recently was offered a job overseeing a newly developed production line at the shop he has been working for just over a year and a half, he have nearly the same income as Shawn without a union backing. He was employee of the month his first month). Thank you so much Barbara for watching over these students of yours. They miss you and I miss my cheerleader. Connections was not just a safe harbor. Connections Education was and still is a life line for success. Tell Marty Kalisch Jesse said hey… Proud Dad

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      • It is so great to hear about Shawn and Jesse. Barbara still remains in all our hearts, but this was an awesome reminder. I’m so glad you took the time to update us, Pat. I’m so happy to hear about both Shawn and Jesse’s new jobs and adventures. Sounds like things are going well for them both! Have Jess shoot me an email some time (montekalisch at gmail dot com).

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  16. Here’s to Barbara who left a big impression on me as a big hero with a big heart who had big plans and will always be a big role model for me, doing big things for a big number of people in such a small amount of time. That’s how to fully live a life. She always had a smile for me, always encouraging. I’m so thankful for being one of the lucky ones who had the chance to know her and hear her tell her stories and explain how important it is to “be curious”. I’ll always cherish what she taught me and the pride she instilled in me for what we work so hard to accomplish for the little ones every day. I’m forever grateful.

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  17. “That’s why Barbara Dreyer is a champ.” The lyrics rang out across the hall at the Center for Education Reform’s 20th Anniversary celebration as the crowd honored Barbara Dreyer, the CEO of Connections Education.
    I marveled at Barbara’s aplomb and dancing during the song; I applauded her remarks, her grace, and her strength in helping improve education for all students; and I stood stunned as I learned, for the first time, about the repeated bouts of cancer that she had fought—and continued to fight—through. I walked up to Mickey Revenaugh, her co-founder of Connections Education, afterward and mouthed to her, “I had no idea.”
    That was Barbara Dreyer until the day she passed away earlier this week. Although she finally succumbed to the disease wracking its way through her body and bones, she did not lose her battle against cancer. As ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott said recently at the ESPYs, “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.” By that measure, Barbara crushed cancer.
    Barbara was a visionary. She helped create the K–12 online-learning movement, a powerful disruptive force that has the potential to create a more personalized and equitable education system that is student-centered so that all students can succeed. Behind her leadership, Connections Education grew into the second largest K–12 online-learning provider in the nation, and Pearson acquired it in 2011 for a hefty sum.
    She wasn’t satisfied with just growing the company though. With her at the helm, Connections often seemed happy to halt growth if the student results were not right. That’s the context in which I got to know Barbara.
    Barbara was often not the public face of Connections. For the first few years after the publication of Disrupting Class, I barely knew her. My sense was that she must have her head down in Baltimore focusing on improving the company, and others took the Connections show on the road. But when she reached out just a few years ago, I gained a deeper perspective.
    She was strong, determined, and had a clear sense of right and wrong. And not all was right in the full-time virtual schools world, which is a large part of Connections’ business. Barbara could see that full-time virtual schools were not working for all students. She wanted to know why, who those students were, and if it was the case that full-time virtual schools weren’t a good option at all for them—or were still better than any of their other options. She also intended to shed transparency on the question by opening up Connections’ data and asking the tough questions publicly in a bid to do the right thing for students. She reached out to me to keep me posted on what they learned so I could help shape that discussion—and, I like to think, as a thought partner interested primarily in results for students.
    As we got to know each other better, she invited my wife and I to her home outside of Baltimore—a trip I wish we had taken—but she never mentioned her fight against cancer. It wasn’t that she was hiding from the fight; she was quite open about it because she believed it was important for others to know that you could fight cancer. But for Barbara the work was all about improving educational opportunities for students and transparency in the sector—and that’s where she led every conversation. Nor in a wide-ranging interview with Education Next, where I am an executive editor, that profiled her did she mention it.
    When it became clear that far more students would attend blended-learning schools in the future, not full-time virtual ones, Barbara employed her strong leadership skills and helped Connections leap into that game, as it pulled off a classic maneuver from the disruptive innovation playbook by creating a separate division, Connections Learning that Revenaugh leads, to offer blended-learning services to schools and districts.
    Barbara led her life with vigor and no hint of sorrow for herself; a clear sense of purpose to improve the lives of all students; and the leadership and entrepreneurship skills to create that better world. The world and students everywhere lost a friend and champion this week. It’s now our turn to continue the fight.
    – See more at: http://www.christenseninstitute.org/barbara-dreyer-a-champ-to-the-end/#sthash.8yHJo6ya.dpuf

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  18. This toast photo is so appropriate as Barbara was a ‘we’ leader … she always displayed team pride and kept the senior Connections team near and dear. Here’s to an inspiring advocate, a gifted leader and an edu.com pioneer devoted to connecting every child virtually to quality learning resources, coaches and life opportunities! With love, Mark.

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  19. This toast is to Barbara an amazing woman who dedicated her life to presenting opportunities and promoting education to so many people. You left a footprint that will always be remembered and cherished for many years to come. I know your work is not done as that is who you are and why you are such an inspiration.

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    • I wanted to complete my toast by sharing the impact Barbara had on my life/career/education. I was 17, a senior in high school and Barbara was 25, a Controller at a Manufacturing Company when she hired me under a work experience program. Six months later, after I graduated high school she hired me on permanently. A year later, Barbara encouraged me to take accounting courses in college, explaining the Company’s tuition assistance program. I started taking evening courses at a community college. Barbara hired me at two more companies where she was the CFO at both. She always made sure they had tuition assistance programs so I could continue my college education. I was so fortunate to work for her, and learn accounting under the direction from a real pro that is Barbara. For nine years Barbara mentored and encouraged me, which did not end when she moved on to other ventures. After 11 years chipping away at it part time, I finished my bachelor’s degree in a accounting and passed the CPA exam – Barbara rooting me on all the way. She’s provided me with great references and career advice on many occasions. Though we didn’t keep in close contact for the past few years, we did run into each other and exchanged e-mails from time to time. I wish I could have been involved with her new ventures but I realize there were so many more people deserving of her influence and encouragement. I was so proud to learn she had successfully built and sold Connections, a company focused on educational opportunities for thousands of people. It was no surprise to me that this would be a success, since education has always been her passion. Though Barbara leaves us too soon, her accomplishments were vast and far reaching – more than many could hope for in several life times. Now everyone lift their glass because I am sure you can share this with me when I say she was a great inspiration, mentor, boss and genuine person. Barbara’s legacy will live on through so many of us – we love you Barbara!

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  20. It would be difficult to add much to the tributes already printed above and in various blogs about Barbara’s impact on the lives of everyone she touched. As I read them, I was noting to myself, yes, that’s Barbara, over and over again. She had such clear and strong convictions about business, people, purpose and values, all of which she shared openly and often. My relationship with Barbara spanned various roles, board member, boss, investor, confidant and friend. As a board member and boss, I really only had one responsibility with Barbara: to keep other people and organizations from slowing her down or impeding her progress. There were two purposes for smoothing the way. One of course was that the the more she was able to focus on Connections, the more it succeeded, so self interest was really at heart. The other reason was to protect the others in her path from what I would charitably call her force of personality. She did not suffer fools quietly. She knew what needed to get done, and nothing would stop her and the team she developed from achieving their goals. In 13 years of working together, Barbara never disappointed me, nor did she ever under-deliver. I can’t think of any other person I have worked with who was so consistent in their performance against high expectations. No one has yet mentioned another of her practices: the hiring process and interview. I am quite sure that I would not have been able to get a job working for Barbara and those of you who have know just how demanding it is to get hired by her. Interviews with every member of the senior team, tough interviews, and then go away and produce a complete project related to the business and present it to the team and be drilled on the nuance within. If you made into her inner circle you too are a very special person.

    To Barbara: you are missed already and your legacy lives on, in the lives of every child who attended Connections, every staff member, colleague, business partner, and friend you have touched with your inspiration, determination, indomitable spirit, warmth, generosity, and love. We will never forget you, Peter

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  21. I only met you once Barbara. I was honored to have met you and worked for such a great company. I know your Courage, Leadership and Spirit will live long with this company. I feel like I have lost out by not getting to know you in the years to come.

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  22. Just last October my buddy and co-worker at SCCA, Jamie Harvey and I raised money for the Avon walk in Charlotte in honor of Barbara. We didn’t think we would get to go because we were so far behind on our fundraising goal. I called Barbara’s office in Baltimore thinking I could find an assistant that I could leave a message with and I would ask for them to let Barbara know we are doing our best to raise the money and if she could let others know how to donate to us it would be a big help. I was surprised when I gave my name to the operator that she put me directly through to Barbara. Barbara was so touched and honored that she made a hefty contribution to the Avon walk which allowed me and Jamie to participate. We took pictures of the day and shared them with her through emails. I had one framed and sent to her office. She responded back: “Alison and Jamie, thank you so much for the wonderful picture and for doing the walk. I have the picture right in my bookcase where I can see it every day. All the best-Barbara.” I am so glad I did this walk for her and for all the people out there battling cancer.

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  23. I started working at Connections in 2005, 24 years old at the time. In a profession where numerous years of experience are non-negotiable for any type of management position in HR, Barbara took a chance on me and let me build my own HR team from scratch over the next nine years. Along the way, she gave me guidance, support, and mentorship, and spoke to me often about her own career and her passion for ensuring women succeed in leadership, even agreeing (eagerly) to lead a session on Women in Leadership for our internal training series at CE. At the same time, she challenged me more than anyone else in my life has, and always inspired me to do more than what I thought was possible. In December, I was sitting next to Barbara at The Baltimore Sun’s top workplaces awards ceremony. She had come in a few minutes late, quickly apologizing and saying she came straight from the hospital, that her feet were so swollen and blistered that she hadn’t been able to walk most of the day, another symptom of a recent treatment. A surprise that night was that, not only was Connections Education honored as a top workplace, but Barbara also received an award for outstanding leadership, as voted by our very own employees. Barbara made the tough walk, blisters and all, up to the stage to collect her award. Barbara was much more focused on the organization-wide award than her individual recognition, but also never settled – she was quickly talking about how we could continue to improve the work environment so we could be higher on the list the next year! This past April, she was to lead a workshop I had put together that was two full days, but she had been in the hospital up until the night before. I wanted to insist that we reschedule, but she would not let me, and instead delivered a powerful and inspiring two days’ worth of lessons and discussions. I feel so fortunate to have been one of the many individuals inspired by her. Cheers to Barbara.

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    • I feel so fortunate to have been in that April workshop… so very fortunate to have shared that time with her and to listen to her story and hear her vision. Her passion, commitment, energy and desire to connect with everyone attending, was evident. There was no doubt in my mind about the kind of leader she was, and the legacy she has created. As well as the kind of super charged life she had always led.

      I rarely had an opportunity to work directly with Barbara, however one of the things I will never forget occurred very early on after I had joined the company when I began working with iNaCA. There was a family that was moving from a state that had a CA public school to a state without a CA school. The family had somehow connected with Barbara and she grew to be concerned about their two students – they were very good students with CA and Barbara wanted to continue to help support their success. She helped to shepherd them into International Connections Academy (our private school) and then took another step in their support – she arranged to have two of her own personal used computers shipped from her house to this family so the students could continue in their virtual education (iNaCA, unlike CA, does not send computers to it’s students). I was so impressed by her level of caring, and the personal way in which she fought to create a framework for the success of these students. In her busy demanding life, she found the time and cared enough to make a significant difference in the lives of these students and for this family. That is making a difference – one student at a time.

      Peace to you Barbara. You’ve taught so many so much.

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  24. Barbara was such an inspiration to all who met her. On her last spring visit to our school, I was fortunate enough to tell her. It was obvious that she was tired, but as soon as I asked her if I could give her a hug, she stood up and without hesitation we hugged. She was strong, successful, courageous and giving. She was a wonderful example for everyone, but especially women. See will be missed, but her spirit and leadership will live on in all that she touched.

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  25. From Fathima Dada
    Farewell Barbara
    created by Fathima Dada in Inside Services & Direct Delivery (ISDD)

    Farewell, Barbara, inspirational leader, friend and colleague.

    We meet people, colleagues, friends and strangers every day, but only on the rare occasion do we meet people who have a uniqueness and character that leaves an impact and a lasting impression. Barbara was one of those.

    I met Barbara for the first time in October 2012 at a Pearson leadership meeting. She came straight up to me and asked if I was Fathima Dada, that Marjorie had said that the two of us needed to meet and get to know each other, and demanded to have a very early breakfast meeting with me the following morning. She was on crutches, having hurt her leg badly. Never one to be put off by any challenges whatsoever, Barbara was a full participant in the meetings, voicing her views on Pearson and the world. I was immediately impressed by this strong woman, who had built a powerful business from scratch, and decided then and there that I wanted to get to know her better. The amazing thing about Barbara, was that she would often say things that made everybody feel uncomfortable but this was usually because there was always truth and authenticity in what she said.

    And so I started my relationship with Barbara, and through her, Connections and it’s amazing people. There is so much I can say about Barbara: her astuteness and business smarts, the way she quietly sponsored and supported so many friends, colleagues and strangers. The way she challenged anything that didn’t add real and immediate value, and rightly so. The way she was the archetype of the balance between humility and certainty in the belief that she knew what was best for her business. Her graciousness, courage, appreciation of the beauty in flawless execution. Her keen and wicked sense of humour. Her fierce defense of her ‘people’ at Connections. One of her characteristics that resonated most with me, was her courage in speaking truth to power.

    I recall having an Efficacy planning meeting in mid July with Barbara and her team and other Pearson colleagues, on a trip which was also the last time I saw Barbara. She had just come out of a grueling hospital stay. Yet the level of preparation she’d done for our meeting was astounding, and as usual we were given a mountain of papers and documents, meticulously organized, attesting to all the depth and volume of data at Connections. Impatient at the thought of being ‘trained’ in Efficacy, she retorted that at Connections, ‘We live and breathe the notion and practice of Efficacy, every day, as we have been since we started Connections.’ We were all quiet for a few moments, as we digested, humbly, the truth of what she was saying.

    Moving on swiftly, though, Barbara then added graciously that she was always prepared, however, to learn more and to be able to offer a better learning experience and education to the Connections students.

    Our final discussion that evening was around succession, the Connections leadership team and how every single one of them was special and should be appreciated by Pearson, and how pleased she was that Steven was part of the succession plan. That was at 7pm, and Barbara still had to drive the hour long journey to her other family, at home. She had probably had about two to three hours’ sleep the previous night, trying to complete preparation for our meeting, and that was normal for Barbara.

    I shall miss Barbara, her sparring challenges, her deep support and friendship, her astuteness, her humaneness, her fierceness, her intellect, her hospitality out in Baltimore, including our late night traipses to Whole Foods for Chilli, her supreme sense of ownership and accountability and her exceptional competence.

    But I also know that Barbara has left a huge legacy which will live on, not only in the Connections business, but also in all the people that she know and touched. She has just moved on from this world to another level, and I was very pleased to have found a poem, written by someone from Baltimore, which expresses how I would like to think of Barbara:

    Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there;

    I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow,

    I am the diamond glints on snow,

    am the sun on ripened grain,

    I am the gentle autumn rain.

    When you awaken in the morning’s hush

    I am the swift uplifting rush

    Of quiet birds in circled flight.

    I am the soft stars that shine at night.

    Do not stand at my grave and cry,

    I am not there; I did not die.

    Mary Elizabeth Frye

    Baltimore

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I knew when I became a teacher that I was not long for the world of brick and mortar teaching. I knew that the system was really messed up and did not work for all kids. But I wanted to make a difference and felt compelled to be a teacher. I believed that whatever small part I could do to make a difference would go a long way. I came to Connections after the ensuing and predictable burn-out by the system came that I did not think the system would ever change–this system that favored politics over kids and teacher-needs over student-needs time and time again.

    When I first came to Connections, I was floored when I heard our executive team say things like: we need to be responsible with the taxpayer’s money, we need to do what is right for kids, we need to improve this for the kids… having worked in 7 different school districts in 2 states, I never once heard district leadership speak about being responsible with taxpayer money, and it was not frequent that they would speak of doing what is best for kids. I can’t communicate how overjoyed I was to finally hear this over and over in my work and how completely floored I was all at the same time.

    I’m not going to lie–my initial impression of Barbara was that she scared me to death. In one of her speeches to the Principals at a January meeting, she just tore into all of us about ethics and integrity. While I was not at the heart of the incident she referred to, I think it’s fair to say that she was fairly terrifying in that meeting. They say hind-sight is 20/20 and looking back, the incident and details surrounding the incident certainly warranted the passion with which she addressed it with us and further cemented my experience that this was an ethical company and that Barbara was a person of great integrity.

    Upon further experiences with Barbara, I understood her far better as one of us (a human being). She shared her vulnerability and her willingness to have fun and laugh, she shared experiences where she was unsure if she took the best course of action… she shared her fears and her joys… and my gosh did she fight.. for what is right, for her life, for us, for our students and our kids. I can’t share how grateful I am because words just fail me. Ultimately, Barbara, and the entire Connections family, has changed my life significantly for the better. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to give her a big squeeze and thank her the last time I saw her face-to-face.

    Thank you so much, Barbara. It was and is such an honor to be a part of your legacy.

    “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
    ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Barbara, a toast to you for being the face and spirit of Connections and as others have said, you created a family of which all of us were and are members. You exemplified being a leader and how to create a family within a corporate setting. We love you muchly.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Just wanted to say, our friend and pen pal will be missed so much, I haven’t seen my sons so crushed. Barbara in many ways became their cheer leader and the wind under their wings. Thank you dear lady for all the emails that helped my sons soar like eagles. Our hearts are broken, but our will to move on and our resolve much stronger for having you in our extended family. Peaceful journey precious lady. You and yours will remain in our prayers always. Pat, Shawn and Jesse

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Hi Mrs. D.,

    I can’t write this as though you’re not reading my comment, so I hope everyone understands. I’m going to wake up every morning for a while hoping I was just having a bad dream, but you won’t be there to answer our emails anymore or surprise us with an unexpected phone call in the middle of the day. I now understand what it should mean to have a mom, because of you, I long to hug like we did when you invited us to visit you in Baltimore. I dream of wonderful possibilities and goals that will at times seem impossible without the encouragement of a mom in my corner or having her watch my back as I grow and move on as an adult.

    Life can sometimes feel overwhelming for kids of all ages, but somehow you made the journey for Shawn and me something to look forward to without a worry of what might lurk behind the next turn, You taught us to be well prepared and well read, we learned that taking a chance was just a part of the learning experience and for us to leave the guessing for those who don’t take time to find the truth. You taught us to be dedicated to our Dad’s cause to raise us in the way we should grow and to trust him. I never felt like you would ever be far away or that I would ever feel alone, I know the emails will stop now, but I still look every morning and I guess we will, because you always kept us up to speed.

    So, I guess this is the last message to my mentor and pal, I don’t want you to go, but I don’t want you to be in pain anymore. May your heavenly path be filled with the love you gave to us and may your feet have wings to get home safely. Good bye my friend, I’ll miss you, but I’ll never stop loving you. I hope everyone reading this comment will forgive me for how personal this must sound, I just had a hard time. Blessings and her comfort to all.

    Just me,
    Jesse B.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. A brief memory: it was September 2007, and I and all the newly hired BCVIP teachers all waited for your arrival in the conference room. People whispered, “The president is coming, the president is coming!” As you gave your presentation, you stopped for a moment in the middle of it and said something that changed my life. You said, “Go to graduate school. There’s tuition reimbursement at Connections and you should take advantage of it.” Well, sure enough I did. And after about a million papers and 35K reimbursed, I finished it this past June. I wanted to tell you this in person.

    I wanted to say thank you for building a company that invests back in its people. It’s true that I did not know you very well, but I know the company you lead, and I know it is a reflection of yourself: kind to everyone, strict at times (I remember getting shushed at more than one company event), requiring much of your employees but the first to offer jobs to teachers when their schools were closed down around them. We were to hold ourselves to a higher standard (remember the no-betting smackdown email?), but in turn you always held yourself and the company to a higher standard of ethics. You lived it, you believed it, and you left the world–and me–better than you found it. Thank you.

    Andy LaVoie (a former BCVIP teacher)

    Liked by 2 people

  31. To a woman who was an inspiration and hero to so many, you will be dearly missed. You touched the lives of thousands of families nationwide and made a difference in the lives of countless children who are thriving in school because of your passion and determination to provide a high-quality online program for them. I am one of the fortunate people who had the chance to talk with you on several occasions and saw firsthand how much you cared. I feel honored to have had the opportunity to know you. But most of all, my children have been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the wonderful program you created. Though you are no longer here, your legacy will continue on through all the lives you have touched and will continue to touch through Connections Education. It has been beautiful to read the toasts to you as people remember you fondly and spread your love to all of us. Thank you, Barbara, for who you were and for richly blessing our lives with your passion and dedication. Rest in peace knowing you have made a positive difference in countless lives.

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  32. Barbara, my toast to you my friend. We will miss you but know that you will never be far away.

    My relationship with Barbara began in 2003 as a competitor when CA ventured into Florida; later we would often joke that it seemed like a lifetime ago. We were two scrappy women, who always seemed to find ourselves swimming up stream, fighting for what we believed was the good fight for kids. We had almost instant admiration for each other as we began to discover that we were incredibly aligned on our values. We spent the first few years trying to convince each other that our toys were better than the others, and then thanks to the Florida Legislature we found ourselves in the precarious position of becoming partners. 
    People often ask me, “how do you choose your partners?”  My answer is an easy one; after the typical financial sustainability and legal clearance,  first and foremost, I look at the leadership of the organization and how they run their company. I talk to their employees to see what they think of their organization and determine their convictions. I then look for a shared vision and a heart for kids.  It is my belief that if you let the students’ needs guide your decisions, great things will follow. Barbara shared that belief. In my business, our families, legislators and taxpayers were our shareholders. We used to say that our profits came in the form of student success. Some would argue that a private company could never really put the student at the center of their decisions; driving revenue was first and foremost. Barbara changed that paradigm. After spending a few hours together, it was instantly clear that there was a shared vision and that she had a huge heart for kids. During the years that followed, regardless of her P&L, I watched Barbara develop amazing relationships with her families and put students first. 
    At first it seemed we could not have been more different.  One night over dinner after a long day walking the halls of the FL Capitol, we made a list. Her background was in corporate finance and mine was very much of a traditional educator, recognizing Florida Virtual School was an exception. She had always worked in private sector, and I had always worked in public sector.  Her brain worked in numbers and my brain worked in words. She raised girls and I raised boys. She was really tall and I was really short. She wore boots and I wore pumps. She rode horses and I was the girl from KY who tended to fall off horses.  She had an expense account, I had a per diem. 
    But our similarities were what really mattered. We shared an incredible passion for changing the face of education and the lives of children and were determined not to take no for an answer. It wasn’t that we saw a better way, but we saw a different way that was better for some children. We also saw our work as our play and our work teams as our extended family. If you listen to Barbara’s team talk about what it was like to work for her and the environment she created, it was and still is a family. You feel the warmth the moment you walk into the Connections Education Corporate office. Most of her 11 executive team members have been with her since day one; one has followed her for 22 years. We all know that people don’t work for companies, they work for their bosses.
    But we soon discovered that leveraging our differences was our silver bullet as we built a ground-breaking private/public partnership in Florida. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been daisies and rainbows. The difference was that when the weeds appeared, the trust we shared allowed us to go mano a mano to reach a solution and then talk about what our families were doing for Thanksgiving.  
    To describe Barbara, many adjectives come to mind. We have all witnessed her strength and courage over these many months. She was so determined to continue to push forward, that from a distance, it was easy to forget she was ill. I’m sure that is exactly what she wanted. Often the only way you were reminded she was sick was when an email reply took more than a few hours.  But she also had the courage to share her journey to bring more awareness to cancer and the devastation it breeds. I admire that self-less courage.
    Barbara was a classic disrupter with an innovative spirit. She could see beyond the obvious. Whenever she was in the room, she spoke with passionate purpose. She always did her homework and had so much detail in her brain that she would often leave others somewhat speechless. It was a great negotiating tactic. She never held back and always left it all on the floor. 
    Barbara was Tenacious with a capital T. She really wanted to know in a deep way what worked and what didn’t work educationally in our schools, so she would dig, dig, dig into the data looking for patterns. She was notorious for doing complex statistical analyses at 2 am and stunning everyone with her insights when they opened their email the next morning. Her intellectual curiosity and her belief in data were the real deal. To this day, I think she knows more about Florida education legislation and formulas than most anyone working or residing in the state. 
    I was always struck by how she analyzed a situation, managing to play out all of the scenarios with such depth.  I remember telling Pam Birtolo, our Chief Education Officer, that I wish I could live a day in her brain. The results of her analysis would often come in the form of a verbose email, finding its way to your inbox first thing in the morning, shortly after she had just gone to bed and you had just gotten up. She was a night owl and we shared our distain for alarm clocks. 
    Barbara was a woman of significant character and integrity, never shying away from openly facing the bad news and taking her share of the blame. As an industry leader, when the press would take on virtual education, Barbara would bring the accusations to the forefront, opening the kimono and facing them head-on; confirming the accuracy of the allegations and identifying a go forward strategy or clearing up the inaccuracies with data or a commissioned third party study.  Barbara was one of those people who did the right things for the right reasons. 
    John Bailey, VP of Policy at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, remembers Barbara as “always being the adult in the room, pushing for what was good for kids.” Barbara made online/blended learning all about kids and families, and not in an abstract way – she made it a point to personally get to know many students and was so moved by their stories that it kept the focus on the right things for her and all those around her.
    Barbara was a shrewd and determined business woman. I personally loved this about her. You always knew where you stood and she was the first to pick the phone up and call when something was out of kilter. There were no whispers in the shadows; she would readily cut to the chase. Cecilia Lopez, former Business Development Officer for FLVS, found herself in the unfortunate position of having to negotiate a contract with Barbara in the past few months. She shared the following: 
    “Barbara is by far one of the craftiest negotiators that I’ve ever dealt with, but she is fair. Her points and counterpoints were just and fair. Our conversations took place over the course of multiple weeks. She would provide us with dates when she would be in the hospital and when she would be available. I remember a day that she was in the hospital and she was on the phone with us. The doctor came in and she asked us to hold. As feisty as she was with us, she was as feisty with that doctor. She never wavered on her convictions regarding the negotiations and I experienced first hand that she was going to fight like hell for her life and everything that reflected her life.”
    Over the years I have seen Barbara through a number of lenses – ranging from an educational leader and pioneer, a competitor, a well respected colleague, a wonderful wife and mother and my friend.  We meet a great deal of people over the course of our careers and lives and in some manner they all make an impact on us.  What few do though is make a major impact on society.  To be able to serve in a role where you can impact so many people is an honor and a blessing.  Barbara is one of those people and her impact will be felt for years to come. We will miss having the opportunity to work with her on the big things that might revolutionize education and we will cherish the time we’ve had. 
    As I reflect, I am reminded that we get very few chances to do the big things with the people who inspire us and we need to jump at every opportunity to do them.  Let that be a lesson to all of us. Barbara did that and will be remembered for all of those she helped and how her work will endure.
    When I received the call asking me to come and share my heart and memories of Barbara, as you might imagine, a flood of emotions took over. I was incredibly honored and humbled as my admiration and love for Barbara is immeasurable. I felt an immediate sense of responsibility, as I thought about all of the incredible colleagues Barbara has surrounded herself with and the loss they are all feeling today; I want to honor their loss as a community. Many of them could not be here today and send their love. And finally, I felt a sense of peace because I would finally have the opportunity to  meet her beautiful family that she talked about so often and to say, “I’ll see you later, my friend. Keep everyone in line up there. We love you.” 

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Mom,

    Now that this surreal, hectic week of planning for this past weekend’s events is done I feel completely lost. I keep waiting for you to call me or text or me. It feels like you’ve just been on a long business trip. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away. Everyone’s stories about you have made me so proud. I miss you so much; I will think of you always. You taught me what a good marriage looks like, how to love without judgement or inhibition, and that life should be measured in quality not in quantity. By this measure you lived a thousand lifetimes. I will talk to you often, I hope that is okay. I will spend the rest of my life trying to bring the same love, compassion, and understanding that you brought to me and your friends and colleagues to other people wherever I go. I hope I make you proud. I don’t know what else to say. I love you, I miss you, I couldn’t have asked for a better mother.

    Cheers,
    Love always,
    Katie

    Liked by 1 person

  34. As I tell people my story about meeting Barbara some 16 years ago, I get the feeling that those who knew her aren’t surprised by the generosity and compassion she showed towards me and everyone else who has had the chance to call her a friend. Barbara was instrumental in getting me out of an educational job that provided me no opportunities and was leading me, like so many, to the poor house. She did this by giving me the chance to enter an industry I had never even considered with my education, background and experience just by taking the time to get to know me while we exercised on my rock climbing wall. She opened the door, I jumped in and it was the best decision I made changing my life forever.
    Barbara was a GREAT friend and although I never tried to take advantage of our friendship, I always knew that I could count on her to be available if I needed her and I have to admit, I leaned on her a few times and was very grateful for her precious time and words of wisdom. I will never forget how happy Barbara was for me when my son was born. She felt with my background in experiential education and the type of person I am, that I was going to be a great father; I knew this because she told me numerous times through the years.
    She was a great mentor, a confidant, a true friend and someone who I am going to miss dearly in my life moving forward. She has left all of us too early but I can tell you that I feel, like so many, incredibly grateful and fortunate for the time I had with her. Barbara, I thank you for the love you have shown me and my family through the years and for all you have done and all you will continue to do through me in my efforts to become a better person, husband and father. I will forever love you and will truly miss having you in my life.

    Love,
    Greg

    Liked by 1 person

  35. This is usually when I shared something new with Mrs. Dreyer (she worked really late some nights), so here goes. Yesterday evening I passed yet another test for my first cadet officers rank in the Civil Air Patrol. I passed my PT and Leadership tests on the first try, the leadership was easier with help from Mrs. Dreyer. I’ll have to swing the aerospace/aviation test on my own, but I know my mentor will be there to cheer me on. One more test Mrs. Dreyer and your wish for me to be a cadet officer will come true… just like you said it would if I prepared. Thank you, Shawn Thomas Bailey

    Liked by 1 person

  36. I only had a brief opportunity to get to know Barbara in 2013 as part of Pearson. Even though the time was brief it was clear to me from the start that she was a powerhouse and force of nature. She commanded respect for all she did for the field of education and all the passion she put into her work each and every day. Through her pioneering spirit, she made a true and lasting impact on our industry, her colleagues, and most importantly on the lives of thousands of students.

    My “Barbara story” begins, as I understand many do, with a test. Not just a written test, but a paper and pencil test! One that she graded by hand, I might add. (I am certain there are several of you smiling.)

    I took the test, and returned to my hotel room in Baltimore having convinced myself it must not have gone very well. Fast forward to a few weeks later, I see Barbara’s name and number pop up on the caller ID on my cell phone. I panicked! “What was Barbara calling me about at 3pm Pacific on a Thursday afternoon?” I asked myself. It couldn’t be good, I figured.

    I figured incorrectly. When I called her back (after several deep breaths and taking a moment to gather my thoughts), she informed me that she was calling to congratulate me on my test score. Being that I’d only been in the group for a few months, she was quite pleased with how I’d done and wanted to tell me so herself. What a complete surprise and something I will always remember!

    From all the other stories I’ve seen in this thread, that sounds like Barbara – taking the time out of her day to let someone else know how they had succeeded.

    As many have said, Barbara, you will be missed. Your legacy will live on through everyone you have touched.

    My sincerest condolences to her family and close friends. May all your memories begin to fill the void that is left behind.

    Like

  37. Dear Mrs. D

    I have good news, I passed all my test requirements for my first Civil Air Patrol cadet officer’s rank (2nd Lieutenant). Now I have a promotion board to navigate, please watch over me and guide my thoughts and words. I also have my learners permit for driving, I’m not sure which is stressing me out more, but I’ll always do my best. Promise.

    Liked by 1 person

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