Judson College alumnae kept a century-old tradition going Sept. 11 as 150 alumnae and friends gathered at Siloam Baptist Church in Marion for Rose Sunday.
Elizabeth Wells, retired archivist for Samford University in Birmingham and recipient of Judson’s Outstanding Alumna Award at the college’s final graduation ceremony in 2021, spoke during the service.
She reminded those in attendance that “God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things for Him” — words that describe many who passed through Judson’s doors during its 183-year history.
And much like the church is not the building but the body, Judson’s legacy now rests in the alumnae, she said.
“Relationships matter most,” she said. “The love of Judson we share is special, and it’s built on a foundation of love for the Lord.
“As we move forward in whatever we’re called to do, the Lord says ‘I’ll be with you always.’”
Tradition began in 1913
The tradition of Rose Sunday, when Judson students would walk across the street from campus to Siloam for worship, dates back to 1913. Siloam hosted a Rose Sunday last year as well, and Siloam pastor John Nicholson said he hopes to continue the tradition.
“Siloam has a unique connection to the Judson family, so it was a wonderful day of celebration,” Nicholson said. “There was a moment in our time of worship when all the ladies were singing, and their voices were so clear, It was a memorable and moving moment for me, and I hope it was for them as well.
“The Judson community is still grieving the college’s closure,” Nicholson added, “so giving them space to come together and remember well and perhaps do a little bit of healing was important too.”
This year’s Rose Sunday service capped off a weekend of activities organized by the Judson College Alumnae Association, led by the group’s president, Claire Kinnaird Keel. The events combined Judson’s traditional fall commemoration of Rose Sunday with the traditional spring homecoming event known as J Day.
Judson College closed July 31, 2021, but alumnae remain active in a variety of ways through the alumni association and Always a Judson (AAJ), a nonprofit organization that acquires Judson items from auctions and donations for the purpose of preserving them and keeping them together.
Contributions from alumnae have made the purchases possible, including silverware used in the dining room in the 1940s and the silver tea service from which Judson first ladies served tea to the students on special occasions. Presently the pieces are in storage, and AAJ is looking for a location to permanently display them, according to AAJ leaders Cynthia McCaleb Gore and Laurie Bledsoe Gruenloh.
The oldest attendee at Rose Sunday was Beatrice Robbins Morris, class of 1951 and a member of Westview Baptist Church in Opp. Patricia Munoz-Hernandez was recognized as the youngest alumna. She is completing her degree at the University of Montevallo, one of many schools that welcomed Judson students when the college closed.
Members of the class of 1972, known as The Golden Club, were honored with medallions and special seating at meals on Saturday and for the Sunday morning service. Each alumna received a red rose as they entered the church Sunday morning. Keeping alive another Judson tradition, both days provided opportunities for Step Sing.
Cynthia Watts-Barrineau, a former Judson student with close family ties to the college, said she values the traditions of Judson, but values more “the strong, permeating sisterhood that unites the alumnae across distance and age.”
“In the words of the song, ‘There’ll always be Judson, and Judson will ever be/ If Judson means as much to you as Judson means to me,’” Watts-Barrineau said. “The college may be physically closed, but the spirit of Judson will always live in the hearts of Judson alumnae.”
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