Wendy Gillespie ’73 was born in the United Kingdom and immigrated with her family to the United States at the age of 9. After graduating as valedictorian of the Bloomfield High School class of 1969 she enrolled at Montclair State College. Like many Montclair State alumni, she was the first in her family to attend college.
She became a Spanish major with an original goal of the Foreign Service and dove head first into campus life. She held part time jobs at the library and the graduate admissions office and was treasurer of the Student Government Association. She served as the first student representative to the Board of Trustees and was president of the Faculty Student Co-op.
After graduation, Wendy taught Spanish in N.J. for four years prior to joining IBM in Southern California and subsequently transferred to her current home in San Diego. After 13 years with IBM, including an overseas assignment in Tokyo, Japan, she founded Frontier Trading along with her husband. Together, they built a multimillion dollar binational business, exporting and distributing grocery products throughout Mexico and Latin America.
Now widowed, Wendy has reinvented herself as a Broadway producer. While vacationing in Mexico in 2009, Wendy had a chance meeting with Jay Kuo, who had written a new musical called Allegiance. Starring George Takei and Lea Salonga, the show tells the story of one Japanese American family, whose lives are forever changed by their experiences in the internment camps of World War II. Allegiance became her passion project and she influenced bringing the regional premiere to The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 2012. The show subsequently opened on Broadway in the winter of 2015.
Although the play closed after four months and 150 performances on Broadway, audiences all over the country will have the opportunity to see it in over 600 movie theaters this December 13. Wendy hopes that the wider exposure will give larger audiences the opportunity to see this important work. She believes that the show is even more relevant today given the current political climate.
In the meantime, Wendy, who describes herself as a “business chick,” has been bitten by the theater bug, and is a Trustee of The La Jolla Playhouse. Her current producing project is Come from Away, a musical about people opening their hearts and homes to more than 6,500 passengers on 38 planes, who were stranded in Newfoundland after all air traffic was shut down on September 11, 2001. Broadway previews begin on February 18, 2017.
Wendy, who recently made a gift to the School of Communication and Media, says that she is a member of the President’s Club for two reasons. First, her philanthropic passion has always been education. “Education is the way up for everyone, providing knowledge for success,” she says. And second, Wendy says that she received a great education at Montclair. “It was a safe place, during a tumultuous time, where students from lots of backgrounds came together.”