A portrait of Sandy and Barbara McClinton

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When Barbara (Sweany) McClinton '69 was living in the residence halls at Whitman College, there was only one phone per section. The women whose rooms were near the phone were in charge of answering it and calling down the hall to whomever the call was for.

If it was a parent or a friend, Barbara recalled, she'd hear, "Barbara, you have a phone call!"

But if it sounded like a potential boyfriend, the women had a code. And Barbara still remembers when she heard, "Barbara, you have a special phone call!" shouted down the hallway.

"It turned out to be this guy who'd borrowed my slide rule in physics," she said.

On the other end was Michael "Sandy" McClinton '68, who invited Barbara to attend a performance of Handel's "Messiah." Five decades later, that piece still holds a special place in the McClintons' hearts — as does Whitman College.

The memories of their time in Walla Walla, and the preparation they feel the college gave them to live their best lives, are why the McClintons have given back to Whitman for more than 40 years, and have named the college as a beneficiary of their IRA and estate.

Another reason is because of Barbara's dedication to gender equality.

The McClintons both came to Whitman from the Puget Sound area, and they married shortly after Barbara completed her degree (which she finished a semester early). After earning his degree in biology from Whitman, Sandy pursued a medical degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. Barbara also decided to continue her education, and earned a master's and doctorate from Tulane in psychology.

While attending Whitman, Barbara was acutely aware of the disparity in rules for men and women on campus. The women were required to live on campus in the dorms, return to their dorms by a certain time every evening and follow strict dress codes.

"One of the things I remember about Whitman was how constraining it felt to have the rules for women that the men didn't have," she said. "We couldn't go to the library unless we were wearing a skirt. It was just ridiculous."

So when the college began soliciting the new graduates for donations, Barbara sent something else back instead.

"I sent a note every year that when men and women had the same rules, we would start donating to Whitman," she remembered. Eventually, it happened, and the McClintons kept up their end of the deal. They've never regretted their investment.

"There's something about donating to Whitman that keeps you more interested in the college," Barbara said. "Once you start donating, you're interested in where your money is being spent, and so you learn about what's happening at the college. And then you want to donate more to support what's happening. It works out quite nicely."

The McClintons support a number of programs at the college. One area of particular importance for them is student-faculty research. They have left a bequest in their will to fund an endowment to support the effort.

"It never occurred to me when I was in college to work on a research project with a faculty member," Barbara said. "It really gives students a step up if they want to go on into later academic work - professional school, graduate school. I'm very glad to see Whitman offering those opportunities. We want to support that as much as we can."

Sandy enjoys supporting the W Club and Whitman Athletics. As a former track and intramural athlete, he remembers the positive impact the sport and the athletics department had on his time at Whitman. After retirement, Sandy started a second "career" doing triathlons. He works year-round on strength, speed and technique, and in the past three years has qualified in his age group for the world championships in the United States, South Africa and this year in France.

The McClintons are now retired - Sandy retired as a surgeon who specialized in hand surgery - and Barbara retired as a landscape architect, a degree she earned in the 1990s from Morgan State University in Baltimore. The couple splits their time between Maryland, Hawaii and the foothills of Mt. Rainier in Washington. They enjoy participating in alumni activities wherever they are, as well as returning to Walla Walla for reunion events.

In addition to the bequest, they choose to support Whitman through gifts from their IRA. They appreciate that the tax benefit of giving directly to the college from their required distribution means more of their money goes to a good cause.

"It's especially rewarding to have a charitable cause that we are involved in together," Barbara said. "Every time we change our will, our individual causes receive a little less, and Whitman gets a little more. We just enjoy it so much as a joint activity."

Learn about how you can support Whitman through giving at whitman.edu/giving.