January 21, 2021
Students at Judson College in Marion returned to classes this week — and I’m guessing the young women breathed in the sights and sounds with a deeper level of appreciation than they knew they had.
Faculty and staff members at the 183-year-old institution and fifth-oldest women’s college in the United States likely worked through tender emotions of their own.
Getting a spring 2021 semester when the reality of one became uncertain in December, I have to believe everyone on campus will live life differently these next few months.
We all take so much in our lives for granted until those things are no longer there.
To be given a second chance — or renewed life as in Judson’s case — thrusts that original appreciation to the surface and awakens a powerful ability to share our enthusiasm.
Charting the possibilities
While Judson’s future remains unsure, the current administration under the leadership of Mark Tew is working closely with the board of trustees to chart the possibilities.
At the same time, an army of alumnae and friends has organized to strategize ways it can assist as “Always a Judson.”
The fact that alumnae and friends raised $500,000 in less than two weeks and secured another $1 million in pledges a month later demonstrates their determination to find a way through the financial crisis at Judson.
But it’s more than beating the bushes for one-time donations to prop up the school a semester at a time.
To secure longevity for the historic campus and its unique student experience, those fighting for Judson must show how the school can not only survive but also thrive going forward.
Potential donors want to know they are investing in something that will last and that the donation they make will truly make a difference.
We commend Tew’s transparency and openness to explain the reality of the situation.
Without his willingness to be open, the situation would have been confusing and the temptation would have been to pinpoint a person to blame.
I’m confident the question of how Judson found itself within a month of closing is being thoroughly analyzed by internal officials so processes and other aspects can be tweaked as needed and so those who give can be assured their investment will have lasting effect.
And while there are indeed specifics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic hitting following a 10-year enrollment decline that came on the heels of the 2008 recession, our attention should be focused on helping discover what’s next — in whatever form that might take.
Of course, we can give financially now or along the journey, but we also can pray for the leadership and trustees as they study the research and proposals coming from the consulting firm helping them figure all of this out.
And we can learn more about the school’s history and future potential as ways to help share why Judson should matter.
Judson College and The Alabama Baptist share same founders, so description of sister entity on target
Judson College is sometimes described as a sister entity to The Alabama Baptist and TAB Media — the same as how the University of Mobile and Samford University have traditionally been explained — regarding our connection in Baptist life.
The same goes for how we are connected to the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, Alabama Baptist Retirement Centers, Shocco Springs Conference Center and The Baptist Foundation of Alabama.
Still, our connection to Judson is a bit deeper than the others.
The founders of Judson were the same founders of TAB, and the paper’s original building sits on a corner of Judson’s campus today.
The building was moved from its original location a few blocks away in 1997 so it could be preserved.
When Judson became part of the Alabama Baptist State Convention in 1843, it was debt-free and self-supporting.
I’m not sure our founders meant to time things the way they did, but it’s interesting to see how they established the school in 1838 and worked to push it out of the nest in 1843.
That was same year they launched TAB, which began their next journey of growing another needed ministry and resource for Alabama Baptists.