Meet the Miz Bliz

Barbara (Fagan) Blizzard ('66)
Barbara (Fagan) Blizzard ('66) poses for her 1963-1964 Military Ball Queen candidate portrait

February 21, 2024
University Advancement

Each year, when Gonzaga University's Advancement team gathers around a giant conference room table on Zags Give Day, reaching out to alumni, families, friends, faculty, and staff for 24 hours of spirited, high-impact fundraising, a particular alumna's donation elicits shouts of gratitude and joy. Maybe it's because she has a name that's fun to say, or because her participation in gift-matching challenges is as consistent as clockwork — but in truth, it's because her gifts have supported students through the Zag Scholarship Fund, the Fund for Gonzaga, and Gonzaga in Florence for 51 years.

Barbara (Fagan) Blizzard ('66), known by her email moniker "The Miz Bliz," always elicits a smile, representing the Zag spirit of generosity, gratitude, and global mindset. However, her Gonzaga journey began accidentally.

"I wanted to attend a school of foreign service," Blizzard explained, "but the letter of recommendation never came through. After an international incident the following year, I realized it was by the province of God that I was at Gonzaga instead."

Originally from Los Angeles, Blizzard attended Catholic school and was known as an overachiever. Alongside her other college applications, she applied to one Ivy League school, just to prove she could get in. But she didn't wear her academic capabilities as a badge of honor.

"I was tired of being singled out," she admitted. "I was quite shy and didn't want to be seen that way anymore. It wasn't until I went to Florence that I came out of my shell."
Gonzaga in Florence marked a turning point for Blizzard. Far from family and without today's convenient communication technologies, she embarked as part of the second cohort of Zags to travel across the Atlantic to Italy. 

"The girls lived on the top two floors, and the boys were below us," she recalled. "There was a penthouse for the four faculty members who traveled, and the Jesuits had special offices on the first floor. The classrooms and our dining room were in the building's basement."

Blizzard shared stories of Florentine hospitality, her family lineage (her paternal grandmother was from Florence), side trips throughout Europe and the Middle East, and even a bit of mischief by the students.

"We like to tell people ‘We are the only Gonzaga in Florence class to have killed a Jesuit,'" she joked, describing how a coordinated "door slam" prank coincided with a priest's natural passing at the neighboring Jesuit care facility. "The looks on people's faces are priceless."

Gonzaga in Florence monumentally changed Blizzard's self-perception. A hard worker and high achiever, she hadn't realized the power of her near-perfect memory until then.

"We had an opportunity to go to Rome for the weekend, where 27 African martyrs were being canonized," Blizzard said, "and I had a big exam on Monday morning. For the first time, I stepped out of the 'old me,' took the trip, and relied on my memory. Scoring an A was a cool moment for me as I recognized what I was capable of."

Over the years, Blizzard has kept in close contact with the 1964-1965 Gonzaga in Florence class, serving as a de facto scribe. Their reunions were biannual until the global pandemic of 2020 disrupted their traditions. But nothing has stopped her from ensuring that current and future students can unleash their potential at Gonzaga, both in Florence and in Spokane.

"I always give at the end of the year when donations are doubled during the 'Twice as Nice' campaign and on Zags Give Day," she said, noting that making gifts from her IRA is her preferred method. "I want others to have the opportunity to attend Gonzaga. I was in a scholarship program and worked in the library on campus and in Florence. I also tutored a girl in American English for a family in Italy. I know how hard it can be."

Gonzaga is grateful for Blizzard's continued generosity, and the Advancement team looks forward to seeing her name pop up on the screen again on March 7 for the eleventh annual Zags Give Day. And she'll be in the hearts of her fellow Florentines in May when Gonzaga in Florence celebrates its 60th anniversary. You can bet her name will prompt many more stories and smiles.

Join "The Miz Bliz" along with other spirited and genenerous Zags in supporting students on Zags Give Day and learn more about the Gonzaga in Florence 60th anniversary celebration.