Barbara Maureen Carnahan Ridge, who led the successful grassroots crusade for a Westside campus of Arizona State University beginning in the early 1970s, died peacefully in her sleep on June 6. Ridge, who had battled with Alzheimer’s disease over the past six years, was a tireless community activist and small business entrepreneur on the west side of the Valley.
Mrs. Ridge turned community activist in 1972 after finishing her studies at Glendale Community College and realized that her responsibilities as the mother of four young children would not allow her to commute to Tempe to complete her bachelor’s degree. Together with her husband, former Glendale Mayor Sterling Ridge, and several other like-minded advocates, she formed the Westside Citizens Committee for Higher Education. Over the next 12 years, the grassroots group convinced both ASU and the Arizona Legislature that a four-year college was indeed needed in the fast-growing West Valley. In 1984, Gov. Bruce Babbitt signed a bill authored by then State Rep. Sterling Ridge, establishing the branch campus.
During the 1991 dedication of the ASU West campus, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor saluted the Ridges for their perseverance and vision. “I was still in the Arizona state Senate when Barbara and Sterling Ridge began talking about a west side campus,” O’Connor said. “Even good ideas need time to germinate. And this idea has taken more than 20 years to come to fruition. Looking around this evening at this handsome campus and the enthusiastic students and friends of this new university, it is clear that the wait has been rewarded.”
In 1994, Mrs. Ridge was awarded the Arizona Republic’s “Community Vision Weaver Award” for her work on behalf of West Valley residents.
Mrs. Ridge, who began her career as a fact finder for the Arizona Republic prior to a job as stewardess for Bonanza Airlines, later served as director of development for ASU West and Glendale Community College. She was also a small business entrepreneur on the westside, operating two successful businesses: Mother Nature’s Plants, which was in the Valley West Mall for nearly a decade; and the Silver Mountain Trading Co. in historic downtown.
Mrs. Ridge graduated from Washington High School in 1956 as a member of the National Honor Society and continued her education at Glendale Community College and Arizona State University. She was deeply involved in the lives of each of her children, serving as president of the Glendale Elementary School (Unit 1) PTA, and never missing their various extracurricular school and sports activities.
Born in Springdale, Ark., on July 24, 1939, Mrs. Ridge is survived by her four children, Jennifer Hickman, Jamie Ridge, Beth Sarda and Paula Stroup; seven grandchildren; one great-grandson; and sister, Beverly Bruner. Barbara and Sterling were married at First United Methodist Church of Glendale on Dec. 6, 1959.
A celebration of life service will be held for Mrs. Ridge beginning at 11 a.m. June 18 at First United Methodist Church of Glendale, 7102 N. 58th Drive. A luncheon and visitation will be held after the service at noon.
In Mrs. Ridge’s memory, contributions to the Barbara and Sterling Ridge Memorial Scholarship are welcomed. Checks can be made to the Glendale Union High School District, 7650 N. 43rd Ave., Glendale, AZ 85301 (Attention Tina Charette). Include “Barbara and Sterling Ridge Memorial Scholarship” on the memo line.