Love Italian- and New York–Style

Not all Baruch couples have that fateful first encounter on campus: for Helen Mills and Gary Tannenbaum (’70), it was in Venice, Italy. Photo by Elena Olivo

Love Italian- and New York–Style

Helen Mills and Gary Tannenbaum (’70) Share Their Story

Related “Gary and I met when we were both 21, just having graduated from college,” recalls Baruch College Fund Trustee Helen Mills. Each was traveling in Europe for the first time: she, with her girlfriend Candy from their alma mater, the University of Kentucky, and he, alone, a graduate from Baruch College.

Mills and her friend had been traveling overnight by train from Switzerland to Venice, Italy. Helen remembers “pulling my monstrous luggage off the train. It must have been a 60-pounder (I had never traveled before). Ahead of me and already on the platform was Candy, who was talking to a young man advising her about the exchange rate and the best and cheapest hostels.” The young women were impressed, and the three decided to explore the city together.

In the evenings, Helen and Gary were on their own. Candy stayed in, writing letters home to her fiancé. On these nights out, Helen and Gary discovered how well they got along. The Europass travelers met again in Florence and spent more time together sightseeing. “When we met again in Rome,” says Mills, “Gary had bought two wire rings: one with a ‘G’ insignia, one an ‘H.’ He gave me the ‘H.’” They had become a couple.

Back in the U.S., Mills moved to New York City with the help of Gary and his friend, who drove to Kentucky in a black Valiant to transport her to the city she has since called home. The sum total of her relocation funds: a $500 loan from her father.

After settling in, Mills decided to take additional college courses. “I went to Baruch because Gary went to Baruch, and he knew everything,” she says smiling, adding that Baruch’s being “affordable and offering a wonderfully diverse urban educational experience were also pluses.” Working in the day, she chose night courses, creating her own ad hoc curriculum: 80 postgraduate credits over four years.

“Attending Baruch changed my life,” says Mills. “I met professors who made the classroom alive; I admired my hardworking classmates; I learned how to think,” she says. “Today I want to do what I can to help Baruch.”

Tannenbaum concurs (about all but the “knowing everything” part). He admits that it took him 10 to 20 years to adequately value his Baruch education: “When I was a student, I didn’t always like my course work. I wanted to finish my degree [he finished his BBA in 3½ years]. I wanted to get out into the world. But 10 to 20 years after graduation, I realized that what I learned at Baruch helped me to be successful professionally and in life generally.” He adds, “I feel that I got a great deal at Baruch, and now that I have earned a measure of success, I want to give back.”

A real estate entrepreneur and arts patron, Helen Mills established the Helen Mills Event Space and Theater on West 26th Street in 2005. Gary Tannenbaum (’70) is principal at Miltan Management Corp. Both Mills and Tannenbaum have been generous donors to Baruch through the Baruch Means Business 2.0 fundraising campaign.

—Diane Harrigan


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