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Santa Barbara Associates Celebrates 30 Years

The professional women's group reflects on its history and its incorporation into the formerly all-male University Club

The Santa Barbara Associates, a professional women’s group anchored at the downtown University Club, celebrated its 30th anniversary at a dinner event last Thursday at the Santa Barbara Club.

“We wanted a different venue for our anniversary as we always meet at the University Club,” Santa Barbara Associates President Debby Ciambrone said.

Established in 1981, the Santa Barbara Associates is a nonprofit, mutual organization whose purpose is to promote the association of business and professional women. Women of all ages and backgrounds in high-level managerial, executive or ownership positions meet to discuss business or pleasure and to establish networks beneficial to them. Membership is by invitation only and is limited to 200 members and 10 honorary members.

Lunch meetings are regularly held at the downtown University Club. Special events and trips also are scheduled.

The idea for a networking group of women in top-level professional positions was developed in 1980. Founding members included Eleanor Van Cott, Mindy Bingham and Barbara Greene. More members were recruited, and the organization became incorporated thanks to pro bono work by attorney Terry Bartlett, who reminisced how her father, the late Stan Bartlett, proudly “came in arm and arm” with her to the club. Bartlett and Van Cott both attended that evening.

Finding a place to meet downtown at lunch was a challenge. The nucleus group began negotiating with the iconic University Club at Santa Barbara and Sola streets. The males-only club offered the use of its Alumni Room once a week as a luncheon site. The arrangement proved to be successful, and the University Club amended its bylaws to accept women as full members for the first time in its history in 1983.

The women proceeded to infuse funding and energy into the conservative, formerly all-male club, which resulted in remodeling, refurbishing and improved cuisine.

“One board member told me letting in women was the best thing to ever happen to the University Club,” Van Cott waxed at the recent anniversary event.

Once the women were allowed, Van Cott described how the first feisty group added some drama and marched in dressed in pink sweatshirts that read, “A woman’s place is in the University Club!” There was a period of transition, however, as at first female Santa Barbara Associates members could not use the “members only” entrance from the parking lot (which opened to the bar area). They had to use the front or back doors to enter. But time moved on with Santa Barbara Associates becoming members and taking on leadership positions in the club.

Also spotted at the dinner were SBA founding members Nancy See and Judith Kahan, as well as charter members Judy Hill, Joy Holman, Pat Jones, Vickie Mahan and others. Past presidents were also well represented with Mary Penny, Catherine Dishion, Diane Wondolowski and Denise Lockhart participating. Other members attending were Erin Graffy, Joan Brair, Ann Moore, Jane Macedo de Veer, Joanne Schoenfeld, Barbara Bartolome (who created the Memories Booklet), Shawne Mitchell, Calla Gold and Marcie Friedlander.

Michelle Jackman wrapped up the evening with humorous reflections and a champagne toast.

A meaningful tradition the SBA established in 1999 is the Woman of Distinction Award to honor the late Diana Meyers. She exemplified the professionalism and dedication to excellence and service that characterizes the Santa Barbara Associates.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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