Oral History with Barbara Vilkomerson
Interview with Barbara Vilkomerson conducted by Lew Gantwerk on April 26, 2023. Recorded at the Princeton Public Library. Part of the Voices of Princeton partner project with the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Mercer County.
“I first arrived in Princeton in utero when my parents, Jess and Marion Epstein,
moved here in the summer of 1943 for my father’s job at the recently opened RCA
Sarnoff Research Center. Both my parents were very active in the local
community. To help found the Princeton Jewish Center, they took a second
mortgage on their house.
After graduating from Princeton High School in 1961, I never imagined that I
would return to Princeton, and live most of my adult life here. Following college
and graduate school, thinking it was the right time to travel, I traded all my
possessions in for a round-the-world ticket. As fate would have it, I met my
husband, David (he was playing tennis with my father!), just a short time before I
left. It must have incubated well, however, because just two months after an
extended trip to the Japan and Southeast Asia, we were married and living in
Jerusalem where he had a post-doc fellowship, and I worked as assistant to the
School of Education.
We moved back to Princeton in 1971. David rejoined RCA Sarnoff, and I worked
as assistant to the Dean of Teachers College, Columbia. The next decades are a
kaleidoscope of memory with life full of family (two daughters, Rebecca and
Sara), friends, volunteer work, and work. Before returning to work, I served two
terms on South Brunswick Board of Education, and as its president for three years.
I worked at ETS for more than twenty-five years with a focus on new product
development, strategic and business planning, and finally as an Executive Director
in one of its business divisions. Over the years, I also served on the boards of the
Princeton Jewish Center, Princeton Adult School, Planned Parenthood, and ACLU-
Princeton was an idyllic place to grow up in, and a wonderful place to raise a
family. After retirement, I found a cliché to be true: I became so busy, I could not
understand how I ever worked. I have taken courses at the university and
Evergreen Forum, trained and worked as both a Domestic Violence Response
Team member, and a Court Appointed Special Advocate, enjoyed the attractions of
New York and Philadelphia. One constant for us has been travel – we have been
fortunate to travel widely and continue to enjoy exploring new places and new
cultures, both modern and historic, as often as possible.”