Judson College: A tribute to 183 years of educating women in arts, sciences, social skills and Christian service

By Elizabeth Wells
Historian and Judson College alumna

Judson College, named in honor of Baptist missionary Ann Hasseltine Judson, was founded in 1838. From the beginning, Judson’s mission was to offer educational opportunities for women to develop their God-given gifts and talents and to equip them to serve Christ as His hands and feet in the world.

On Jan. 7, 1839, Judson Female Institute opened its doors for the first session. Incorporation came two years later on Jan. 9, 1841.

Traditionally, 19th century women’s education provided basic instruction in literature and mathematics but focused on the social graces of womanhood, proficiencies in needlework, drawing, penmanship and music.

However, founding president Milo Parker Jewett included in Judson’s curriculum classical male academic offerings — mathematics, laboratory science, Latin and Greek, literature — along with the “finer” skills and Bible.

The Judson woman was well read, able to conduct business and professional work, teach and gracefully preside over and see to the needs of her household.

She was active in her community and her church, providing leadership when called upon and financial aid where needed. Judson women were challenged to be leaders in this world, to meet those needs in whatever circumstances they encountered.

“The Judson” demonstrated her resilient spirit over nearly two centuries. She survived two devastating fires, rebuilding and improving the campus each time.

Students and faculty ministered to the community, state, nation and world. Her women pioneered in research, served in all professions and nourished home and family.

Leaders developed

Judson College students and faculty partnered with Alabama Baptists in missions work too. Hearing God’s call to local and international ministry, students prepared themselves to be of use. Even now, they continue to lead in local churches, associational and state ministries.

No matter how large or small the task, countless women answered God’s call to full-time missions. In the words of Drucilla Collins McCullum, class of 1887 and the first Southern Baptist missionary woman to Japan, they all answered, “Send me.”

Judson alumnae were the institution’s most loyal supporters, giving sacrificially to fund specific needs. They promoted the school and encouraged young women to attend.

These women are bound together by Judson traditions passed down from one generation of students to another.

Sadly, Judson College closed its doors July 31, 2021. In his announcement of the closing, Mark Tew, president from 2019 to 2021, said Judson’s dwindling student enrollment and financial difficulties amid a global pandemic were the major factors in the decision.

Judson alumnae and other loyal supporters rallied to their alma mater’s crisis with prayer and financial gifts, but sadly they could not save the school.

Loss to region

Judson’s loss extends into Marion and Perry County. Frances Ford, outstanding alumna and executive director of Sowing Seeds of Hope, expressed it well: Not only “we but the community will suffer and will feel the hurt and the devastation of losing that college. Judson was a college that encouraged you to give back.”

The doors of Judson College may close, but her influence will continue. The gifts Judson women bestowed upon this world are far reaching and will continue to be strong and fruitful in God’s fields.

Work continues in finalizing Judson assets

By Jennifer Davis Rash
TAB Media

As Norman H. McCrummen III, son of the late former president of Judson College, shared memories about the school and the area, current Judson President Daphne Robinson found herself reflecting, grieving and healing.

McCrummen spoke during a special adapted form of Rose Sunday at Siloam Baptist Church in Marion on Sept. 12, “and it was beautiful,” Robinson said.

“God puts the right people around us at the right time when we need it most,” she said. “The key is to listen to the Holy Spirit. We can’t get ahead of God on this.”

Describing the days since July 31 when the school portion of the corporation known as Judson College closed, Robinson said she has been focused on preparing to seek potential buyers for the campus and continuing negotiations with creditors in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.

“They are all being cooperative and understanding,” she said. “It’s a story that’s continuing to unfold.”