For Tammy ’85, MEd’87 and Steve Barry ’85, P’14, ’17, what started as a chance meeting turned into an Eagle legacy and an unrelenting commitment to Boston College.
“We credit BC with a lot of where we are today. We’re so grateful for meeting each other, of course, but for the values the University instilled in us during that time.” — Steve Barry
I: A PERFECT INTERSECTION
If ever you come to doubt that significant moments can happen in the midst of the quotidian, look no further than your nearest painfully slow queue. Maybe try the DMV, or an understaffed baggage check counter, or a grocery store the day before Thanksgiving.
Or, if it still exists, find an alphabetized registration line at a medium-sized liberal arts college on the fringe of a major metropolitan area. For Tammy Bateson and Steve Barry, both Class of 1985, that last one did the trick. Waiting in line to collect their meal plans—back when those were tiny tickets you’d rip off a reel—they struck up conversation. “Most people meet online. We met in line, the rest is history,” Steve jokes. “We credit BC with a lot of where we are today. We’re so grateful for meeting each other, of course, but also the values the University instilled in us during that time.”
Steve and the BC band coming out for halftime. To the right: Tammy and Steve celebrating post-commencement
Individually and as a couple, they flourished at the Heights. Steve, who studied mathematics and economics in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, immersed himself in the “Screaming Eagles” Marching Band, playing trumpet and forming lifelong friendships with his BC bandmates. “It really was one of the most formative parts of my BC experience; I got goosebumps every time we played in front of the home crowd.
“Every year we would go on an away trip to one away game. In 1984, we went down to Miami. That was the Flutie game. We were all there, the band. I’ll never forget it. We didn’t have iPhones, but I do have some pictures from a little Instamatic—proof that I was there.”
Tammy, who studied severe special needs in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development, realized from her time volunteering with children with multiple disabilities that it was her calling. She dove headlong into her studies and practicum placements. “It’s something I always knew I wanted to do, and there were so few programs at the time.” After completing her Master’s degree in the Lynch School, Tammy went on to teach at a number of schools for the blind, lectured in a graduate program for teachers of children with deafness and/or blindness, and consulted families with children with developmental delays.
“They’ve taught me so much—about myself, about gratitude, about appreciating your health. I always wanted to lift these children up, get them to be able to communicate,” says Tammy. “Most of the kids I’ve worked with were non-verbal, so I’m really just trying to give them a voice.”
Aligned with this is her service with Mercy Learning Center, which provides basic literacy and life skills training to women with low income using a holistic approach. Tammy tutors, volunteers, and chairs the board of the organization located in Bridgeport, Connecticut. “My mission is educating women so that they can be a role model for their children, but also learn a second language so they can go to the doctor’s office, navigate a job search—all of these crucial life skills.”
“Tammy inspires me with how generously she gives of her time and talent to these organizations,” Steve says. “It’s just innate to who she is.”
For both Tammy and Steve, though, their BC journey began well before (and continued well beyond) that fateful day during move-in weekend, 1981. “’61, ’81, ’85, ’86, ’14, ’16, ’17,” Steve says, his voice trailing off as he tries to remember more BC class years in their families. It sounds like a raffle draw or a Keno winners list. If you lose track, there’s always the Barrys’ BC tailgate flag, embroidered with the years down the right-hand side.
“Why does anybody apply anywhere else?” Tammy says. “We’re not even close to grandchildren yet, but we’d like some Eagles from that crop when they come. The left side of the flag still needs numbers.”
II: RETURN ON INVESTMENT
Four year-olds aren’t famous for following through on their plans. But in the case of Tammy and Steve’s middle child, Courtney ’17, the exception proves the rule.
Not long after she could speak, Courtney’s mind was made up. Once she put on her Boston College cheerleader costume and refused to take it off, it was a done deal: she was going to BC, where she’d study to become a nurse. Fast-forward a little over a decade, and she still wouldn’t budge. Tammy told her, “you don’t have to go where Dad and I went; we should visit some other schools.”
When they took a trip to another university, it only clarified her decision. Like mother, like daughter: she knew what she wanted to do with her life. She was going to care for the most vulnerable among us, and she’d learn how to do that at BC.
The Barrys’ giving extends across myriad schools, programs, and initiatives at the University. In BC, they’ve found a philanthropic partner that shares their commitment, priorities, and sense of mission.”
Tammy and Steve Barry – BC Philanthropy
Tammy and Steve Barry – BC Philanthropy
Barry Faculty Research Fund for the Carroll School of Management
The Barry Family Fund for the Boston College Band
The Barry Family/Goldman Sachs Endowed Professorship in Nursing
The Barry Family Scholarship Fund
The Goldman Sachs Alumni Endowed Scholarship (for CSOM undergrads)
The Steven M. and Tammy J. Barry Fellowship Fund (for Graduate Students in the Lynch School)
The Barry Family Pops Scholarship
From there, it was easy for her parents to get on board supporting Courtney and the mission of the Connell School of Nursing. “We didn’t know too much about the Connell School until Courtney was in it,” says Tammy, “and we became so impressed with Deans [Susan] Gennaro and [Katherine] Gregory and the programs. It left us even more impressed by BC and the University’s commitment to service to others.”
Working with BC’s Office of University Advancement and Goldman Sachs (where Steve is chief investment officer of fundamental equity), they established the Barry Family/Goldman Sachs Endowed Professorship in Nursing. “We came to learn the value of these professorships,” notes Steve. “Not only do they provide financial support, but when there’s an endowment in place, that’s a deeply important credential for that scholar, whether it’s used to retain great faculty in a very competitive environment, or recruit promising talent, or attract undergraduate and graduate students to study under them at BC. This is something that can make the University better in really meaningful ways.”
While this represented the first endowed professorship for the Connell School, it was only the most recent example of the Barrys’ staggering generosity on behalf of Boston College students and faculty. A few years ago, Steve pioneered Boston College’s partnership with Goldman Sachs to fund scholarships for low-income admitted Eagles through QuestBridge, an organization that connects low-income students with opportunities in higher education. In addition to his own financial stake, he recruited colleagues with BC ties to lend their own support to the initiative. Aligning BC’s and Goldman Sachs’s shared goals of fostering diversity and inclusion, this endeavor will provide scholarships to generations of “socioeconomically challenged, but really talented kids,” Steve says.
Part of what makes the Barrys so unique in their support of Boston College is their commitment to guiding and leading the University they love. For 37 consecutive years now, the Barrys have made a gift to their alma mater. More than just writing checks from afar, they’ve enmeshed themselves in the inner workings of BC and its community—Steve is a member of the Board of Trustees and the Wall Street Business Leadership Council, and Tammy is a member of the Council for Women of Boston College and various Reunion committees. “What we like to think about,” says Steve, “is how we can help steer the University, really furthering the mission.”
It’s impossible to overstate the impact Tammy and Steve’s philanthropy has made at Boston College and beyond. Over 25 Presidential Scholars, a host of Pops scholars, graduate students in the Lynch School, research initiatives in the Carroll School of Management, as well as travel costs for the BC band—not unlike Barry class years, the list goes on and on.
“I joke that I sometimes wonder if I work for BC and have a side hustle at Goldman Sachs instead of the other way around,” Steve says. “It’s just something that we receive so much from. From Pops and Presidential Scholars, to faculty and researchers in the Connell and Carroll Schools, and graduate students in the Lynch School (whom Tammy has helped mentor), we take such pride in their development and formation, in the difference they’re making in the world. What a return on investment they are. And at the end of the day, we really believe the world needs more BC.”
A mid-October trip to the Heights is the Barrys’ third such visit to the Heights in as many weeks. Their first was for a September event celebrating innovation and integrated science at BC’s newest building, 245 Beacon Street, as well as Pops on the Heights. One week later, they’ll return for an event recognizing their endowed professorship in the Connell School of Nursing, featuring Dean Katherine E. Gregory, PhD’05, P’26, and Christopher S. Lee, the cardiovascular nurse-scientist who was recently named to the Barry Family/Goldman Sachs Endowed Professor of Nursing.
But on this visit, you can catch them standing in the shadow of Alumni Stadium, decked out in BC letterman jackets and customary red bandannas, sampling the tailgate’s cocktail bar, and warming their hands beside the roaring mouth of the grill, that familiar flag flying just above their heads.
It’s Homecoming weekend at the Heights. Steve and Tammy wouldn’t miss it for the world—no matter the likely result of a matchup with the nationally ranked Clemson Tigers.
“Every time we come back,” Steve says, “it’s like coming back home.” The three hour drive from their home in Connecticut has become an afterthought. “At this point, we do that on autopilot,” adds Tammy.
The prevailing noise you’ll hear from the Barry’s tailgate—between soaring Springsteen synths and the clinking of bottles—is laughter, the kind that bellows. Tammy and Steve are the warm and garrulous type, quick to offer a drink. You get the impression a couple of hours spent shooting the breeze with them pre-game goes by in the blink of an eye.
As the sun dips behind Gasson Hall in the distance and an October chill passes over the lot, the tailgates begin to wind down. Somewhere behind them, a 15-foot-tall inflatable Eagle slowly deflates, the air hissing out of it like steam from a pressure cooker. Hosts try to offload leftover sandwiches and wings to people walking toward the stadium.
One last question comes to mind: “After all this time—having come here as students and seen two of your children graduate from BC, supporting a litany of scholarships, professorships, programs, and initiatives, having served University and community leaders in a number of roles—how would you describe your family’s relationship with Boston College?”
For what feels like the first time in the conversation, there’s a long, weighted pause. Tammy and Steve look at each other. Smiles crease in the corners of their mouths.
“A love affair,” Steve starts, nodding. “It’s come to define our family, and we are so fortunate to be able to reciprocate. A love affair.”