Barbara Rowe sought adventure, found York

When Barbara Rowe and friends set out from England on the Empress of Canada in 1961, her trip made headlines in her local paper: “Three Brave Girls Seek Adventure in the New World!” And adventure is just what she found in this country – and is continuing to seek as she heads into retirement from the University.

Right: Barbara Rowe

Rowe, who retired on Friday, Feb. 6, as manager of operations with York’s Department of Commercial Facilities, landed work in an advertising agency when she first arrived in Toronto. There she stayed for two years, then tackled work in a public relations department before hopping to Ottawa as a private secretary in the House of Commons for former NDP Member of Parliament Frank Howard. She accomplished all that in three short years in Ontario – then the West beckoned.

Rowe spent a year in Calgary raising her first child, son Duncan, as well as doing some part-time editing for a fledgling author, before moving back to Ontario and settling down in Woodbridge with her two children. While at home, she honed her public relations skills, this time as a PR manager for a large charitable organization.

Left: From left to right are Steve Dranitsaris, senior executive officer in York’s Office of the VP Finance & Administation, paying tribute to Rowe; Barbara Rowe; and Leon Wasser, director of commercial facilities with York’s Campus Services & Business Operations

At last the bright lights of York University attracted Rowe and in December 1974 she accepted a job here. “My nearly 30 years at York have given me a career with lots of challenges and opportunities,” she said, “from my start as an administrative assistant to the late Jack Allen, director of the Department of Ancillary Services [now known as Campus Services & Business Operations], to my position working with Leon Wasser, which included supervising the daily operations of York Lanes.

Right: Rowe’s granddaughters who attended the retirement reception at York

“I spent many years working from the East Office Building – which was then called the ‘temporary office building’, before moving to the Physical Resources Building and finally to the William Small Centre. I remember when Founders College had a full-service TD Bank, when YFile used to be The Gazette, printed weekly and when parking was $30 a month,” reminisced Rowe.

Left: Rowe’s son, Duncan, and daughter-in-law, Melanie

Also an active member of York’s Confidential, Professional and Managerial Employees Association, chairing its Program Committee for a few years, Rowe started a family tradition of being at York. Her son, Duncan, is a York alumnus (BSc ‘88) “and so is his wife, Melanie, whom he met when he was athletic rep. for Founders College,” said Rowe. “He and Melanie have two children, and the whole family are enthusiastic supporters of York, with the whole Rowe family turning out for events such as Homecoming.”

What’s next for the life-loving York retiree? “My plans include learning another language…. Since I have lived in Woodbridge for over 30 years, I think it’s time for me to learn Italian,” Rowe said laughingly. “And I want to travel, become a ‘reading buddy’ for children at my local library and, of course, spend more time with my own grandchildren, not to mention visit our cottage on Turtle Lake in Gravenhurst.”

The adventure continues….