Elizabeth Fenner Barnard was a student at the College of William & Mary and graduated in 1939. She attended Farmville Normal school for two years before transferring to William & Mary. She may have started out as a teacher but later became an architect in the late 1940s. She worked for Camp Lee, Binswanger Glass Company, and Marcellus Wright and Company. Ms. Barnard married Samuel B Nickels, Jr., a 1940 graduate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in August 1942. She was active in the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, the Women's Club of Hopewell, and other civic activities. Barnard was the daughter of Judith Fenner Barnard, a graduate of Farmville Normal and a teacher for over 50 years.