Tony Dobrowolski | Berkshire Eagle
Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant didn't take a direct route to the Berkshires. She was born in Philadelphia. Her father was an engineer in the Navy, so they moved often. She has lived in Virginia Beach, Va., New Jersey, New York and Florida.
"I was really shy," VanSant said. "I was almost afraid to acclimate because then we'd have to go again."
Through it all, VanSant was a great student — she was a member of the National Honor Society and well-known for her spelling bee prowess. She was at a college fair in Virginia when she met the dean of admissions at Bard College at Simon's Rock.
"I don't know how he ended up in Virginia Beach," she mused.
Five years later, in 1992, VanSant graduated from the Great Barrington college, where she studied Spanish and art history.
VanSant stayed in Berkshire County to raise her family — she has four children ages 12 to 29.
"I was intrigued by having a home, because I had moved around so much," VanSant said. "I built a community, I was living in Housatonic. It felt safe."