In this interview, Stavroula James Balomenos begins by describing her childhood in Portland, Maine, which consisted of “home, school, and church.” She tells of her father’s strong belief in the value of a good education—something he didn’t have the opportunity to receive—instilling the message with all his children that “education was the doorway to a good life.” He refused to give his daughters a dowry but rather chose to pay for their educations. Balomenos recalls her transition from her small Greek Orthodox household to Pembroke College, her decision to attend having been influenced by two cousins who attended previously. She remembers the fear of moving away from home, her “inferiority complex” in academics, which she points to as a reason for her struggling with certain classes in the sciences and English language, and her trouble with the mandatory English proficiency test.
Entering Pembroke as a math major with the intention of becoming and engineer and “building bridges,” Balomenos eventually transferred to the music department, which provided her a small scholarship for her musical talent and promise. As an undergraduate in the music department, she worked as a piano tutor and became the official “page turner,” thus allowing her to travel with professors around Europe to concerts and events. Balomenos recounts her unenjoyable experiences with physical education department, and her discontentment with the Brown-Pembroke merger—citing the notion that Pembroke allowed for a space where women could exist freely amongst themselves. She says the highlight of her undergraduate years was her senior piano recital in Alumnae Hall.
Balomenos also discusses her dating experience at Pembroke, after having been forbidden to date in high school, and says that Brown guys were “too wild” for her. She met her “first love,” a Syrian-American Rhode Island School of Design student, at the Greek Orthodox Church in the “red light district” of Providence. She recalls her desire to be a teacher, underscoring it with the belief at the time that women could be teachers, secretaries, nurses, or get married.
Following her graduation from Pembroke, Balomenos describes her graduate experience at Harvard University as competitive, less welcoming, and less inclusive, saying that she favors the philosophy and pedagogy of Brown. So goes on to explain her career teaching at Montreal West High School and then as a kindergarten ESL teacher at The Bedford School. Balomenos closes the interview by noting how influential Pembroke was in all regards of her life, and how valuable her Pembroke education and experience has been to her.