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Imagination, creation, change

Screenwriter and executive producer Barbara Hall (’82) was recognized as one of 100 notable Madison alumni in the "100 Years, 100 Days, 100 Dukes" campaign, leading up to Homecoming 2011: The Alumni Centennial

Phil Vassar

Fascinated by literature and storytelling since her single-digit days, Barbara Hall (’82) found a way to turn her passion into a career. Now a screenwriter, executive producer, and story editor, Hall’s name is synonymous with Hollywood success. Judging Amy, Joan of Arcadia, Northern Exposure and I’ll Fly Away are just a few of the hit shows that demonstrate Hall’s talents as a writer and producer. And it all began at JMU.

As an English major, Hall took many poetry and film classes. She told Montpelier in 2004, “When I got to college, I was so excited by the number of opportunities to write, so I wrote every possible genre.” That enthusiasm molded Hall into the eclectic writer she is today.

Soon after graduating summa cum laude, Hall moved to Los Angeles and is now a four-time Emmy award nominee. Her long list of accolades includes two Humanitas Prizes for television — for writing that promotes human dignity, meaning and freedom — the Television Critics Association Award, a Golden Laurel from the Producers Guild of America and the Catholics in Media Award.

After September 11, Hall thought America needed something philosophical. Seeing television as a big conversation with the world, Hall wanted to have a theological discussion with the America. Enter Joan of Arcadia. The series lasted two seasons but was met with continuous praise — uncommonly nominated for an Emmy in its first season. Not preaching or arguing, the series explored and pondered questions concerning the importance of our day-to-day decisions and the significance of our existence.

Hall grew up in a Methodist household and converted to Roman Catholicism in adulthood. “I have always been interested in metaphysics and physics,” said Hall in a 2005 interview, and she credits science more than anything else with her conversion.

Hall, the 2005 recipient of the Carrier Distinguished Alumni Award, is a devoted Madison grad. “I’m constantly bumping up against people who didn’t get how I got here. People ask me, ‘how do you know this?’ Or ‘how do you know that?’ I tell them, ‘I went to JMU.’”

Read more about Hall in her Be the Change profile and Montpelier. Also check out her band, The Enablers, her solo album “Handsome,IMDB for her full filmography, and BarnesandNoble.com to read one of her ten novels.