Barn Talks to resume after 2-year absence

COVID concerns canceled the conversations, but this celebration of interesting SVUSD students has returned.|

The Sonoma Valley Education Foundation is excited about resuming its Barn Talks in May after suspending the speaker series during the pandemic.

“With the lift of mask mandates at schools beginning on March 14 and the return of in-person events and fundraisers throughout Sonoma Valley, we feel comfortable resuming the Barn Talks speaker series,” said Angela Ryan, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.

Kori Schake, a Sonoma Valley High School alumnus who is now a national security and NATO expert, will discuss “Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine” with Andy Gibson, chair of the history department at SVHS who is also an alumnus of the school. The event will be held at Sebastiani Theatre on Monday, May 9, and will begin with a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the discussion at 7 p.m.

Typically, Barn Talks receptions serve as a gathering time for alumni who come to hear a classmate speak. Several of Schake’s classmates plan to be at the event.

The last Barn Talk took place on Feb. 20, 2020, featuring historian Gaye LeBaron and former Index-Tribune publisher/editor Bill Lynch. The talks are the brainchild of Laura Stanfield, a parent of four SVHS alumni, and Gail Diserens and Megan Kaplan, members of the school’s class of 1980. They created Barn Talks to serve as a speaker series that showcases SVHS alumni and to connect interesting graduates with current high school students.

Besides Schake, LeBaron and Lynch, other past speakers have included quantum physicist Charlie Marcus, former Salesforce Executive Vice President David Havlek, Salesforce Executive Vice President Meredith Schmidt, retired U.S. Army Col. Jeff Martindale and actor/comedian Brian Posehn.

“We’re always looking for interesting speakers from varied careers that are comfortable speaking to large audiences,” Ryan said. “We’re in communication with former school principal and alumnus Bob Kruljac, who has been managing the selection of the Dragon Hall of Fame since 2008.”

The Barn Talks have been held in barns throughout Sonoma Valley, some more than 100 years old. The Barn at the Vadasz Family Vineyard, Cuneo Barn, Tyge Williams Barn, The Old Redwood Barn at Gundlach Bundschu Winery and Broadway Farms Barn have hosted the events. Attendance is predicated by the size of the barn, but typically ranges from 100 to 250 people.

Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at

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