A Part of the Webster Family

Barnicle/Tinker Families

Mary Elizabeth “Judy” Tinker Holbrook, BA ’52

Dorrit Barnicle O’Hallaron, BA ’57, MAT ’86

Emily Mary Tinker Milford, BA ’57

Marguerite “Bee” Milford Allan, BA ’45

Patricia Vaninger, MAT ’92


 by Marianne Kirk, BA ’99

Photo copyright of Webster University

The Barnicle-Tinker families have a history with Webster University that goes back many decades. Twenty one family members, including 13 cousins, have completed degrees at Webster.

Mary Elizabeth “Judy” Tinker Holbrook and her cousin Dorrit Barnicle O’Hallaron attended Webster in the 1950s. Judy, who majored in English and also studied Spanish, earned her undergraduate degree in 1952. She relates that a highlight of her education was a study trip to Mexico with fellow students.

After earning her MAT in 1986, Judy’s cousin, Dorrit, went on to teach math for 30 years at Meramec Community College in St. Louis, where she still teaches part time. Her sister Emily Mary Tinker Milford received her undergraduate degree in sociology in 1957.

Photos copyright of Webster University

Emily’s niece, Patricia Vaninger, earned an MAT at Webster in 1992. Patricia went on to teach in the Parkway School District where she helped pilot their full-day kindergarten program. Patricia’s daughter, Julia Leigh Vaninger earned an undergraduate degree in economics and psychology from Webster in 2001. She is now senior marketing director for Rémy Martin in New York.

What attracted you to Webster?

My grandfather, Robert Barnicle, was the driving force for the college education of his six daughters in the 1920s, which was unusual in that time. They attended Webster College, as did many of their children and grandchildren.

Our grandfather also inspired me. He became acquainted with the Sisters of Loretto during the time he owned a saddle shop in Florissant, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. When the Sisters of Loretto started a college, he wanted to send his daughters there.

I knew Sr. Jacqueline when she taught math at Nerinx Hall where I attended high school. In addition, Sr. Francetta Barberis (Webster president 1958-65) was a good friend of my mother, Emily Barnicle, who graduated in 1923.

Family connections led me to Webster, where I was accepted in 1965. However I decided to attend undergraduate college in New Jersey where I lived. After working as a teacher for several years, I returned to Webster for an MAT, which I received in 1992. I knew Webster’s MAT program was strong and was advised by fellow teachers not to go anywhere else.

What has Webster University meant to your family?

Webster’s emphasis on diversity left an impression, which continues to this day. I encouraged my son James Holbrook to go to Webster and he graduated in 1992.

I’m proud of the education I received at Webster and all the connections with my family. They go back to my great aunt Albertina, born in 1859, who was a Sister of Loretto.

My mother used to take me to her Webster reunions so I am acquainted with a number of women who attended in the 1940s with her. I still play bridge with them once a month at the Alumni House.

My family has valued education for generations and I think that came from my grandfather as well as my aunts and cousins. There are many teachers in my family, including myself. I still get together with classmates several times a year and enjoy the Golden Circle Luncheons.

I really feel that my life was enriched by my graduate studies. The education classes made me a better teacher, more connected to the way children think and how to help them become independent thinkers. I think it made me an independent thinker too. My daughter Julia believes her Webster education allowed her to move up in her career. An important thing she learned at Webster was how to work with a diversity of people in the business world.

What was Webster like when you attended?

Sixty years ago, it was an all girls’ school and most of the teachers were nuns. I really did appreciate the Sisters of Loretto and still do. They were interested in educating women to be independent thinkers. My history teacher Sr. Mary Mangan was a very inspirational person.

I was shy then, but Webster was a small and friendly place, and I just loved it. I remember Sr. Mary Mangan was my Latin teacher, and she was excellent.

It was a warm and welcoming place. There were only about 150 students so everybody knew everybody. I liked that the Sisters of Loretto were so modern in their approach.

I had a wonderful experience at Webster. My education there was so broadening. Brenda Fyfe (now Dean of the School of Education) was my advisor and also taught several classes in childhood education. She introduced me to the concepts of the Reggio Emelia approach to teaching young children. The experience I received at Webster allowed me to succeed in piloting the full-day kindergarten program in the Parkway School District.

What do you think about Webster University of today?

It certainly is an enormous place with far-reaching campuses. I always thought of the Sisters of Loretto as a forward-thinking group of women who are the backbone of the University still.

It’s just amazing!

The current campus in St. Louis is very impressive.

I’m really pleased about the building and expansion going on at our main campus. I realize that online learning is convenient for a lot of people, but Webster offers so much more. Webster is a strong university. I’m a fan of the European campuses and was delighted when my daughter’s friend told me she was attending Webster in Leiden Netherlands.

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