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It Takes a Village

Barbara Tanner

Walkways to Westminster creates a path of higher education for youth of South Salt Lake

by Audrey Maynard (’03) 

It’s a good experience to live when times are tough,” says Barbara Tanner, Utah humanitarian and philanthropist. Growing up in Depression-era Ogden, she remembers the countless hours her mother spent in a Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints ward house teaching women how to repurpose fabric and sew clothes, as well as putting up each season’s produce to store in the community cannery.
“Everybody helped, and I grew up seeing all of that,” she says. “Instinctively, I took on the idea that you help wherever you can.”
Barbara has woven this value throughout her life. Together with her husband, the late business leader Norman Tanner, she has been instrumental in supporting causes that build community, primarily in the Salt Lake area. The Tanners’ involvement with Westminster began during the presidency of James “Pete” Petersen, who is credited with leading Westminster out of imminent closure in the early 1980s.
“He gathered quite a number of people together to support him,” she says. “My husband and I were interested in bettering the community for everybody, and the only way to do that is to contribute where you see a need—and we saw Westminster as a need.”
Decades later, Barbara has sustained her commitment to Westminster, backing initiatives like the expansion of the Jewett Center for the Performing Arts and the President’s Innovation Network. Her latest— and most personal—project is Walkways to Westminster, a college-readiness program for underrepresented and first-generation youth in South Salt Lake.
“There are so many students out there who could and should go to school, but because of their circumstances, they feel it’s out of their reach,” she says. “The more we can do to help students at an early age—show them that they can go to college if they work hard and stay in school—the more we’re helping them see the vision of school.”
Monica Ferreira, program coordinator for Walkways to Westminster, oversees 13 student mentors and two student fellows who provide college preparatory services, including tutoring, ACT and SAT practice, and financial aid and admissions guidance, to 8th–12th graders in South Salt Lake. She has witnessed deep learning take place between mentors and students and their families. “Working together, the emphasis is on the team, not the individual,” Monica says. “Walkways offers South Salt Lake students and Westminster students the opportunity to authentically share life experiences and broaden their views of the world around them.”
It’s this kind of collaboration that attracted Barbara to the Walkways project: she believes it meaningfully addresses issues of equality and socioeconomic disparity.
“We are all equal under the law, but our lives are not equal: we don’t all start out on the same level,” she says. “As a society, we need to step in and help those people who have been less fortunate.”
Every day, Monica sees how Barbara’s gift is opening doors for students who would otherwise never consider college as an option. “Oftentimes, they do not see the possibility of attending a higher education facility because they have not visited a college campus or talked with a student mentor who says, ‘Yes, this is possible,’” she explains. “Now, they have the opportunity to take ownership of their high school choices and decisions.”
According to Barbara, who turns 99 this year, the stakes are high for a society that does not invest in educational opportunities for all of its citizens. She asserts that education is the key to solving the most pressing challenges facing the world. “I’ve lived long enough to see mistakes repeating themselves,” she says. “If citizens were more aware of our history, they would be so much wiser in making decisions. We can’t have a democracy that functions if we don’t have educated people.”
Although the program is in its infancy, Monica looks forward to growing the resources necessary to help students gain acceptance into college and flourish while they’re here. One idea is to develop a cohort of admitted students from the Walkways program who would have designated campus resources and scholarship opportunities.
“This cohort would attend a summer bridge program to prepare for starting college and have access to scholarships to offset the financial burden that encumbers many of these families,” Monica says. “We hope that these students will become mentors at Westminster and in their communities to aid others in their journey to college.”
Barbara shares the same vision for the program and finds fulfillment in helping start an initiative that will benefit so many young lives. “I want to be remembered as someone who tried to build the community in every respect,” she says. “It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child: it takes a good village. I want to help build Salt Lake into the best kind of community.



About the Westminster Review

The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.