Updated, 1:10 p.m.
Barnard raised $2.3 million dollars for its financial aid program at the annual Barnard Gala on Tuesday night.
At the auction and dinner event, which was held at the Plaza Hotel on 59th Street and Fifth Avenue, Tess Gannaway, BC ’12, spoke about the importance of financial aid to her. A year’s tuition at Barnard is roughly $50,000, including room and board, and the college gives out about $30 million in financial aid each year.
“I was one of those girls that Barnard was my first choice,” Gannaway said. “My family really needed the help, and Barnard’s financial aid is out of this world compared to a lot of other schools.”
Both Gannaway and her sister Amanda, BC ’06—who also attended the gala—received financial aid for all four years at Barnard.
Barnard auctioned off full-tuition scholarships, meaning bidders didn’t get anything in return. After quite a few people agreed to buy $50,000 scholarships, the auction moved on to $25,000 bids to pay for room and board, followed by bidding for smaller amounts.
About $771,000 was raised for financial aid during the auction, with the rest of the $2.3 million coming from ticket sales. Most individual tickets cost $1,250, and some guests paid as much as $100,000 to underwrite multiple tables.
Patricia Harrigan Nadosy, BC ’68 and a member of Barnard’s board of trustees, was one of several recipients of the Frederick A.P. Barnard Award at the event. She said that financial aid is something her family never takes for granted.
“My husband escaped from Hungary. He went to Brooks and Harvard on full scholarship and loans at Columbia Business School, so we are very familiar with going to school and getting ample financial aid and not having to stress about where the money comes from,” Harrigan Nadosy said.
Harrigan Nadosy has been coming to the gala for 20 years. She recalled being present at times when Barnard students first received the news that they were getting full scholarships.
“I’ve been with them on days when they’ve gotten the notice that they’re going to be fully funded, and it’s life-changing,” Harrigan Nadosy said. “They’re able to have a life that’s very different from what they could have had if they did not have financial aid."
“It’s too bad we cannot make the whole education process more financially equal,” she added.
Barnard President Debora Spar also announced at the event that President Barack Obama’s decision to speak at Barnard’s commencement inspired her to create the Presidential Scholarship, a $10,000 scholarship for students working several jobs. Spar talked about the importance of financial aid in forming a diverse student body.
“Half of our admitted students are students of color, and 10 percent come from outside the United States,” she said. “We could not do any of this without the support from each and every person in this room.”
Jyoti Menos, BC ’01 and a former president of Barnard’s Student Government Association, said that although she didn’t receive financial aid, she recognizes its important role in creating diversity.
“I’ve always loved to be involved with students as much as I can,” Menos said. “I went to the Mumbai global symposium and it was amazing. School is so expensive nowadays, especially in New York. It’s really important to have a diverse student body.”
An addition to this year’s gala was Gala Nights, a fundraising reception for recent alums featuring drinking and dancing that took place after the main event.
“A lot of us didn’t know how to be involved, and this is a great outlet for alumnae to come back and speak to the school and give back to the school, and feel like they get to be a part of the larger event that’s happening tonight,” Gala Nights chair Caroline Bliss Spencer, BC ’09, said.
Gannaway said that receiving financial aid did not just open up academic opportunities, but social opportunities as well.
“The people in this room are so important, not only to me but to a lot of students, to my friends,” she said. “Without them I wouldn’t have a lot of my classmates and I wouldn’t be here.”
The story has been updated with finalized numbers from the gala, bringing the total to $2.3 million.