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Dr. Virginia Barnes

August 1, 1924 - July 22, 2020

Founder of the Pony Barnes Foundation

Camp Name: Pony

Virginia's Story

Over the last 70 years, Dr. Virginia “Pony” Barnes has distinguished herself as an educator, successful business owner, and visionary. Her remarkable educational and business career began after serving two years in the United States Navy. Dr. Barnes earned her teaching credential from Occidental College and her doctoral degree in education from Stanford University.

Dr. Barnes worked as a professor of education at San Jose State University (SJSU) for 27 years, where she developed and taught education courses for student teachers. Dr. Barnes strived to inspire a love of learning by teaching her students two core principles: how to apply research-based learning strategies in their classrooms, and how to create learning environments that were student centered, collaborative, and cross curricular. 

Her unwavering belief in the importance of learning, and more importantly, a love for learning, would provide the foundation for Montecito Sequoia Girls Camp.  From 1963 to 1987, Dr. Barnes both owned and directed Montecito Sequoia Girls Camp in the High Sierras, where girls ages 8-18 experienced four to eight week residential summer camp programs. With guidance from Dr. Barnes, counselors were expertly trained to employ research-based teaching strategies and creativity in their camp activities. In fact, many members of the summer counseling staff enrolled in Dr. Barnes’s leadership courses, taught one evening each week, earning college credits at SJSU. 

​In the mid 1980’s, Dr. Barnes partnered with Marion Soloway, a former camper, professional educator, and friend, to pioneer a unique camping concept: traditional one-week residential summer camp activities and programs for families. Aptly renamed, Montecito Sequoia Family Camp quickly earned national recognition as one of the country’s finest family camps. Dr. Barnes’s camp programs also included year-round opportunities for outdoor education, winter sports, retreats, and getaways.

Dr. Barnes sold Montecito Sequoia Family Camp in 2006.  She co-founded the Pony Barnes Foundation in 2017, with the purpose of continuing her educational philosophy – inspiring a love of learning – and creating an environment where campers can embrace and succeed through authenticity.


Pony's Celebration of Life

In August 2020, our community gathered to celebrate the life of Dr. Barnes through song, storytelling, and poetry. We share this ceremony for our Montecito family to revisit and remember our dear friend and mentor, Pony. We miss you on earth, Pony. We will always remember your light. 

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