Barbara Agonia was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1934. She attended Hanover College in southern Indiana, where she spent a year studying abroad at the University of Exeter in Devonshire, England. She graduated Hanover in 1957 with a triple major in English, speech, and theater.
Agonia spent her first years out of college teaching high school English, speech, and theater in northern Illinois.
At the age of 35, she decided to pursue a Master’s degree in English. In 1969, she moved to Las Vegas and enrolled in the English Department at UNLV. As Agonia completed her degree in 1971, the community college system in Nevada was emerging and seeking faculty for the new institution. Agonia was among the first eight new faculty members at Clark County Community College, now known as College of Southern Nevada.
In her early years with the college, Agonia did a great deal of public speaking on behalf on the newly formed system, promoting the new institution and reaching out to potential students. At the same time, she taught full course loads in composition and literature, and eventually became chair of the English department.
In the 1980s approached, Agonia became actively involved in rape crisis education, at the urging of Florence McClure. She also helped establish a Women’s Center on the Clark County Community College campus.
In addition to her involvement in and commitment to public education, Agonia has also been involved in the Soroptimist International organization for business and professional women who work to improve the lives of women and girls in local and international communities.