Say the words “Washington University in St. Louis,” and Barbara Bindler’s face lights up, her baby-blue eyes twinkle and she exudes excitement. Washington University has played a major role in her life. One of its most exuberant boosters, at a diminutive 5 feet tall, she could be its head cheerleader. Bindler exudes Washington University spirit.
Bindler’s connection to the university began when she entered it in 1962 as a sophomore, after a year at the University of Illinois, where she was tapped for the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society. Three years later, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the School of Arts and Sciences. Her dedication continues today as she spends countless volunteer hours devoted to her alma mater.
Washington University is where she met her husband, Dan, as well as where she presided over an art museum interest group and co-chaired the 50th-anniversary celebration of her graduating class. Bindler lives up to Wash U’s tagline that “each student can be an individual and achieve exceptional things.”
Bindler (who was then Barbara Golder) first noticed her husband-to-be in the halls at University City High School even though he was one year ahead of her. “But we were only acquaintances,” she says. “We really didn’t know each other.” That changed in 1962, when a mutual friend introduced them in the Olin Library at Wash U. “I was excited that he asked me out right away, and we started dating,” Bindler says. They were both about to begin their senior year at Wash U two years later when they married on the Starlight Roof of the Chase Hotel in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. “When we got married, we were both students,” Bindler says. “Without an income, we lived with my parents for a year while we finished our education. After that, he was on the road to becoming a licensed CPA [he retired in 2007 as a partner at RubinBrown LLP], and I taught Spanish and English at Pattonville High School.”
Now married 53 years and a grandmother of four, Bindler says she stopped working professionally as a teacher and began volunteering after daughters Susan and Debbie were born. “I wanted to concentrate on caring for our girls when they were really young,” she says.
She began to explore the concept of community service in the early 1970s. “I volunteered as a candy striper at The Jewish Hospital [now Barnes-Jewish Hospital] years before and thought helping others would be an appropriate way for me to use my free time,” Bindler says. “I felt that community service would give me a wonderful sense of doing something meaningful for others.” Thus began her mantra of giving back to the region, a journey of 40 years of volunteer service to her community that continues today.
Her passion for caring for the elderly dates back many years. “Care and concern for the senior population in our community is vital,” she says. She chaired the Senior Services Committee at the Jewish Community Center (JCC), was a member of the JCC board and served on the foundation board of the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging, whose mission is to serve adults through the journey of aging.
For her dedication and fortitude on behalf of seniors at the JCC and her exemplary leadership as president of the J Associates, a support auxiliary of the center, Bindler was honored with the Richard Weiss President’s Award at the JCC. “Barb has an amazingly rich history of service to the community as a whole and to the JCC community in particular,” says Lynn Wittels, president and CEO of the JCC. “Her leadership both through our J Associates and Senior Adult Services areas distinguished her as a woman with passion and a real ability to get things done.”
Interested in both collecting and learning about art, Bindler served from 2013 to 2015 as president of Women and the Kemper, a special-interest group for members. The organization offers social and educational opportunities and participation in study groups on art-related topics. “We enjoy opportunities to learn about and encourage women’s participation in the visual arts through engagement with programs and resources at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University,” she says.
Lynn Friedman Hamilton, president of Women and the Kemper, has high praise. “Barb is an outstanding communicator of joy and enthusiasm,” Friedman Hamilton says. “With her marvelous and upbeat people-loving personality, she continually exhibited inclusiveness during her presidency.”
Art fills the Bindlers’ two-story Creve Coeur home. “I love our art collection,” Bindler says. “Many of the pieces we have bought over the years have a connection to Washington University. Our most recent acquisition is an abstract print by Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University.”
Two years ago, the Bindlers were selected with a few other classmates to co-chair the 50th-anniversary celebration of Washington University’s Class of 1965. “It was an incredible experience and a tribute to Washington University that they make this milestone 50-year celebration so memorable,” she says. She speaks of the gold medallion ceremony as if it were the Academy Awards. “It began in Graham Chapel, when Chancellor Mark Wrighton placed a gold medallion around the neck of each participant. Then, along with the chancellor, other dignitaries and 200 members of our Class of 1965, we were honored to lead the processional for the entire university. Danny proudly carried the large red-and-green flag of our alma mater, one of our nation’s highest ranked universities, Washington University in St. Louis.”
These magical words seemingly never will lose their charm for Bindler.