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Barbara Haas Bridges ’74

Barbara Haas Bridges '74The mother of two grown sons, Barbara Haas Bridges has been an entrepreneur, businesswoman, philanthropist, and impassioned women’s activist. She grew up in Pittsburgh, raised by a single mother who taught Latin. “I grew up believing that teachers have perhaps the most important job there is.”

That led her to pursue a degree in elementary education at IUP. “Many of my friends were going to IUP. I thought it was not only an attractive campus but also a great value for an education.”

She received her degree in elementary education in 1974, took a little time off, then began teaching kindergarten and first grade. “Teaching in a classroom suits many people, in particular my mother and my sister,” she said. “But I found that it didn’t fit my personality.” She eventually found a different kind of classroom, but not the one she expected. 

In 1980, Bridges and her then husband formed Advance Geophysical Corporation, which developed software for oil and gas exploration, with Barbara serving as vice president. The going was rough in the early years. “It was a struggle trying to make ends meet,” she said. “Needing a turkey at Thanksgiving or running out of shampoo were crises at that time.” 

After the company’s success, Bridges entered the complex world of philanthropy and has become a very respected and generous member of her community. She has devoted her energy and assets to improving the conditions of women and girls, not only in this country but around the world. She has served on boards of directors for numerous foundations and has received many awards for her activities, including “21 Leaders for the 21st Century” from Women’s eNews, an international electronic magazine. 

She has always been drawn toward the power of storytelling. It was her experience as executive producer of a feature film that impassioned her about films and their ability to tell meaningful stories to wide audiences. She joined the board of the Denver Film Society and quickly brought women into the picture. “I was fortunate to have the opportunity with the Denver Film Society to be able to start a program where women’s voices could be amplified through film.”  

In 2006, she founded Women+Film, through which screenings spark discussions about global issues facing women today. Now in its ninth year, Women+Film has grown into one of the Denver Film Society’s most popular programs. The Denver Post named her as one of Colorado’s Top Thinkers in Arts and Culture. Bridges said, “Although I don’t have a degree in women’s studies or film, I was able to use my education degree to create the program.”

Beginning four years ago in March, Women’s History Month, Women+Film started an annual film festival, bringing a community of women and men together in Denver to explore stories of women from around the world. Local and international directors frequently attend and discuss their films in person.

“The audiences enjoy their experiences in the theater, not just with the films but also through the discussions, special guests, and receptions,” Bridges said. “We are raising the voices of women in the film industry and are telling the stories of women from around the world. We have the opportunity to learn from them and to be inspired by them.”

Profile published on 4/10/14

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