Barbara Monroe: From Hollywood Star to Community Hero

Barbara Monroe Scholarship Fund
A Hollywood star during the silent film era, Barbara Monroe established a legacy scholarship fund at The San Diego Foundation that now helps hundreds of local students pursue higher education.

In 1925, Barbara Monroe was on top of the world. She had just arrived in Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and was crowned the winner in a Miss Hollywood Pageant.

Today, nearly 100 years later, her impact beyond Hollywood is equally crown-worthy. Through a legacy fund established at The San Diego Foundation upon her passing, Barbara has helped hundreds of young San Diegans pursue higher education.

Following the pageant win, Barbara secured a contract with Universal Studios and jumpstarted a successful career in the film industry. Over the course of the next three decades, Barbara would become a celebrated star in Hollywood, transitioning from silent films in the early days to sound movies later on. She appeared in notable films such as “Flesh and the Devil”, “No Man’s Law”, and “Oliver Twist”, for which she received critical acclaim for her role as Rose Maylie.

In fact, up until passing away in 2011 at the age of 103, Barbara was known as the last surviving silent film star.

Barbara’s True Passion: Education

However, acting was never Barbara’s true passion. Like the silent films she starred in, she did not talk much about her Hollywood career. As the years went on, she appeared in fewer and fewer movies and spent more time focusing on other endeavors.

In a 1998 book written by Michael G. Ankerich about the transition from silent to sound films, Barbara opened up in a rare glimpse into her career in Hollywood, saying, “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but being an actress was not it.”

Outside of films, Barbara lived an extremely active life and loved the outdoors. She was an avid golfer, fly-fisher and gardener. She even had her pilot’s license and flew light aircraft until she reached the age of 85.

But more than anything, education and helping others were her true passions.

Barbara Monroe
Education and helping others were Barbara Monroe’s true passions.

While Barbara never had the opportunity to finish her schooling, she was always insistent on the importance of higher education. One of her proudest achievements was using her success to help young people achieve their dreams of attending college.

Before she passed away, she used her sizable estate to establish a legacy scholarship fund at The San Diego Foundation. That fund now helps hundreds of San Diego students pursuing higher education, including those supported through the new Community Scholars Initiative.

Thanks to a $1 million gift from the Barbara Monroe Scholarship Fund, the Community Scholars Initiative will improve college completion for underrepresented students in the region. The Community Scholars Initiative helps low-income and first-generation students prepare for, pay for and persist through college. The initiative is a 3-year partnership with Reality Changers and Sweetwater Unified High School District that pairs scholarships based on financial need with strategically-structured wraparound services developed by Reality Changers, including academic tutoring, family support and counseling, to increase college access and success among South San Diego students.

Even after numerous successes on the big screen, Barbara’s most significant impact will forever be on the lives of the hundreds of students who now have more opportunities thanks to Barbara’s generosity and passion for helping others through education.

Join Barbara to help low-income and first-generation students attend and succeed in college.

Support the Community Scholarship Program