Remembering Olivia Barker

by College Hill Independent

published January 30, 2015

The College Hill Independent would like to salute the life and career of one of its most admired and beloved editors, Olivia Taylor Barker.  She died on December 7 at the age of 40 after a four-year battle with breast cancer.  Olivia, while serving as managing editor for two semesters between 1995 and 1996, inspired countless classmates to pursue journalism on campus and in careers beyond.  As a prolific writer for the Indy, she edified and entertained with her dogged reporting, sharp wit, and finely-wrought writing.  Highlights included an expose of internecine strife in the Brown political science department and a midnight romp down the slopes of College Hill with RISD skateboarders.  After graduating from Brown with a concentration in English in 1996, she earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, where she met her husband, Ben Court, who is now a senior editor at Men's Health magazine.  Recruited by USA Today at the age of 26, Olivia became a national features writer, covering everything from shifting generational attitudes toward marriage to the psychological aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  In 2002, she took on one of her all-time favorite assignments, competing in the Miss America pageant as a contestant while reporting on the experiences from the inside out, putting into vivid practice the sort of participatory journalism she admired most and had explored in her Brown honor’s thesis with Professor Emeritus of English George Landow.  Toward the end of her career, Olivia once again shared personal experience with her readers in the pages of USA Today.  Drawing a contrast with the headline-grabbing news of Angelina Jolie’s successful bilateral mastectomy, Olivia told the story of “the brave ones in the country's breast cancer conversation” who are “so quiet as to be all but ignored. They're the women with metastatic disease, especially the young women I get chemo alongside at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the ones who really may not see their children graduate from kindergarten, let alone high school.”  Olivia, who lived with courage, intensity, passion and a boundless spirit, is missed dearly by her friends, family, and the Brown community.  She is survived by her husband and their son, Henry Barker Court, age five.