Barb Mulligan lends her energies to causes that support families


Barbara Mulligan has a B.S. in Biological Sciences from UC Irvine and an M.B.A. from New York University. Her career began on Wall Street where she implemented computer systems for various financial firms. After meeting her husband Mike in Colorado on a ski vacation, they began their family in Short Hills, New Jersey.

In 1994, a San Diego job opportunity for Mike beckoned and the Mulligans jumped on it. Settling in La Jolla, the couples’ two children attended La Jolla Country Day School and Mulligan began using her business acumen in volunteer situations. She was active in the LJCDS Parents’ Association and served as its president in 2001.

She then spent six years with Las Patronas, serving as its president in 2007-2008. Currently, due to her mother-in-law’s recent diagnosis, she chaired the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Memories in the Making Art Auction” on Oct. 4 at the Old Globe.

Mulligan said she finds her work with nonprofits extremely rewarding. With her son Matt a senior at Johns Hopkins University and her daughter Amanda a sophomore at Middlebury College, she said she is happy to contribute “empty nest” hours to benefit the community.

What brought you to La Jolla?

In 1994, my husband was offered the chance to leave his spot on a stressful Wall Street trading floor and come to San Diego to become district manager for Merrill Lynch’s Middle Markets. With our two young children in tow, we jumped at the chance to improve family life since Mike could go to the office very early, and arrive home in time for after-school activities. Of course, the draw of San Diego’s wonderful climate was a great selling point – we had just finished a very long, cold, snowy winter in the northeast.

What makes this area special to you?

La Jolla gave us the ability to raise children in an environment that offers excellent educational options, year-round outdoor sporting activities, arts programs, and a wonderful climate in a beautiful setting. The Jewel has it all!

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

Traffic. I’ve lived here long enough to know that at certain times of the day you don’t want to be driving down Nautilus or on Torrey Pines headed out of La Jolla … but every once in a while I forget.

Who inspires you?

I have been significantly inspired by all those who have made a difference to the families, caregivers, and friends of people with Alzheimer’s, which is why I chaired the recent Memories in the Making Art Auction. From hearing kind and understanding words from those who really know about the disease, to the volunteers who worked so hard to make the auction a success, I find motivation to do more. The heartfelt response to this special event from community artists has blown me away — their generosity and amazing expressions in art pieces made Oct. 4, a magical evening.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I am at a point of my life when I recognize how important family is. My father passed away and I still miss him terribly, in a couple of months my in-laws may not recognize who I am due to their Alzheimer’s and dementia, and my children are busy building their own lives. I would like to be able to gather these important people together to share good food and plentiful laughter. We must cherish each other as much as we cherish our memories.

Tell us about what you are reading.

I love to escape with a good novel. Recent reads include “Cutting for Stone “ by Abraham Verghese, “The Heretic’s Daughter: A Novel” by Kathleen Kent, and of course the frightening story of a woman stricken with Alzheimer’s (from her point of view) “Still Alice“ by Lisa Genova.

What is your most-prized possession?

Family. Period.

What do you do for fun?

I love to start my day in the ocean with my gal pals in the lineup at La Jolla Shores. Each morning that I paddle surf with my “SUP sisters” becomes a day where my smile lasts until late in the afternoon. Mis amigas – you keep me balanced. Muchas gracias.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

I was absolutely thrilled when I was invited to join Las Patronas. I loved meeting lifelong friends while serving a six-year term raising money to fund grant requests from San Diego nonprofits. I am extremely proud and honored to have served as president in 2007-2008; it was truly a remarkable opportunity to work for our community with extraordinary women.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Work hard, play hard, laugh often, and appreciate all the good that surrounds you.